Dementia is a cruel disease which can rob people of their memory, relationships and their connection to the world. AASMA DAY talks to Sylvia Rankin whose husband Roy has Alzheimer’s Disease about how it is still possible to live life with dementia even though it it is more difficult.
“IMAGINE a bookshelf gradually collapsing in stages. That’s how Roy is affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.”
Sylvia Rankin describes watching her husband Roy succumbing to Alzheimer’s Disease as: “Devastating and heartbreaking and like caring for a grown-up child.”
Sylvia, 67 and Roy, 80, who live in Burscough, near Preston, have been together for 34 years and Roy, who used to be an insurance broker followed by six years at Tesco, worked from the age of 16 to 74.
He started displayed symptoms of forgetfulness and memory loss in 2012 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in November 2012.
Sylvia explains: “I started noticing little things at first. Roy kept forgetting things such as leaving things in the oven or forgetting to turn things off.
“He was always meticulous about everything before that so it seemed unusual.
“We went to the doctors and Roy was sent to a specialist and had tests and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.”
As Roy’s condition was a slow progressing form of the disease, for the first year or so after the diagnosis, Sylvia remembers there was not really too much change to their lives.
She says: “I could leave him at home and go out and do things and we could still do things together.
“But gradually, the Alzheimer’s Disease got worse and it was like a downward slope.”
It was last year while on a holiday to Austria with Roy that Sylvia realised the disease was getting a grip of Roy.
She says: “Roy was waking up during the night and then not settling.
“Since then, it has got worse and worse.”
Sylvia says Roy was always very active and loved driving and gardening and helping out with household chores such as washing up and hoovering.
However, he has now had his licence taken away from him because of his illness and his memory has got worse.
Sylvia says: “The caring side of Roy and the emotional side of him is still there and he knows who I am and recognises me.
“However, he tends to get very agitated and he can remember things from way back, but if you ask him to go and get something, he will go to get it and then come back empty handed because he has forgotten.
“When Roy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, I had no idea how much it would alter the person I loved and change our lives so much.
“I am Roy’s carer and am helped by other people too. We have to see to his personal needs.
“It is like having a grown-up child.
“It is so sad seeing someone who was so clever and used to dealing with all the bills, banking and documentation reduced to this.”
Sylvia and Roy have both accessed the Alzheimer Society’s dementia support service and dementia cafes and activity groups such as Singing for the Brain.
They have also held fundraising events for the charity at their local church.
Deborah Parker, Alzheimer’s Society regional operations manager for Central and West Lancashire, says: “We strongly believe that life doesn’t end when dementia begins.
“We do everything we can to help those living with dementia hold on to their lives and the things they love for longer.
“That is why we are encouraging people to ‘do something new’. By doing something new, we want to get people thinking about how it’s not only possible for someone with dementia to hold on to their life and the things they love for longer. They can continue to try new things and have new experiences too.
“As the population ages, we all face the risk of one day developing dementia but with the right support people with the condition can continue to do the things they lov e and lots more.”
There are currently around 16,000 people living with dementia in Lancashire and that figure is set to rise as the population ages.
The Alzheimer’s Society has a range of services to support people with dementia and their carers in and around the Preston area such as dementia cafes and a dementia support service.
For more details, contact staff at the Central and West Lancashire office on 01772 788700.
Dementia: The facts
• Dementia can strip people of their memory, their relationships and their connection to the world they love, leaving them feeling isolated and alone.
• The Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s leading dementia support and research charity. It provides information, advice and practical and emotional support through its website, online forum, helpline and 3,000 services in communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
• 225,000 will develop dementia this year - that’s one every three minutes
• Alzheimer’s Society research shows that 850,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia.
• In less than 10 years, a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to two million people by 2051
• Dementia costs the UK economy over £26 billion per year. This is the equivalent of more than £30,000 per person with dementia.
• Alzheimer’s Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and the millions of people who care for them
• Alzheimer’s Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
• Alzheimer’s Society supports people to live well with dementia today and funds research to find a cure for tomorrow. The charity relies on voluntary donations to continue its vital work.
Donate now by calling: 0845 306 0898 or visiting www.alzheimers.org.uk
• Alzheimer’s Society provides a National Dementia Helpline. Call 0300 222 11 22.