Patricia's story: living with dementia

“If you think old, you will be old. If you think young, you’ll stay young”

I’m 77 years of age and I was diagnosed with dementia four years ago. I have Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. I used to attend a history class and realised my concentration and memory weren’t as good as they should have been. 

I visited a wellbeing place in a pharmacy and I saw a psychiatrist, who suggested I get an MRI scan. The results came back when two people came to my house and said to me, “you have got dementia, you’ve got two types” .. 

I was devastated. I said, “Who is going to look after me?”, because that’s what worried me, straight away, I imagined myself being gaga. Like people that don’t know where the kettle is, don’t know where the light switch is, don’t know where anything is. 

Then I was left on my own and I became very depressed. As I went through this, I thought to myself “depression is worse than dementia.” Dementia is not really affecting me much at the moment; I’m just forgetting a few things. But then I thought to myself - “How awful, how can you live with a memory problem where you can’t remember what you ate for dinner, what you’re doing the next day, or what you did the day before?” 

That sort of thing was worrying me: forgetting my family, forgetting everything. 

Anyhow, I got myself out of the depression and then someone recommended that I volunteer as a peer-support worker at the Memory Service. I was very, very pleased; it lifted me up tremendously, knowing that I was of some value and that I was going to be useful. 

I’ve done quite a few different things. I do the Memory Café here, where I go around talking to people, and I go to conferences and talk about myself and dementia. 

Rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses 

I still manage at home okay. I don’t forget to turn off the taps or the electricity or things like that. I don’t forget to shut the fridge door. I might put something foreign in the fridge, like my keys, but I manage very well and I’m not in danger living on my own. Long may that continue! 

The other day I couldn’t remember the name hippopotamus, the word “rhinoceros” kept coming into my head and I kept thinking about it all day long and then in the evening, when my mind was at rest, I remembered it was called a hippopotamus! 

I know if I get worried or upset or I’m not feeling well, my dementia gets worse. My mind feels as if it’s completely blank - it sort of jams. So, I aim to keep myself well as I know that’s very important. 

Informing the public 

When I was diagnosed, I was frightened. I had no one to talk to, so I became very negative. It would have helped coming to a place like the Memory Service. Now, when I go to the Memory Café, everyone is very happy – they are at different stages of dementia, but they are not morbid or down.  

I think that the public should be more informed, because you only hear what the media say, and they frighten everyone. They make it seem like everyone’s going to be walking around like zombies. People need to be informed about diagnoses and the correct way of living with dementia. That you can live with dementia for a long time, as long as you’re positive and do things to help yourself along. 

I have to write all my dates down now, and write down all the names of people when I first meet them., I put my keys in the same place. Once upon a time, I used to just throw them down anywhere and then it would take me time to look for them but now I put things where I know I’m going to find them - you learn to help yourself. 

I feel young! 

I don’t think of myself as being old. I’d rather not, because I feel young inside and I’d rather continue feeling like that. Obviously, I look in the mirror and see I’ve got older, but I feel that I’m young. I am a great-grandmother and I do love being with the young people and my great-grandsons. 

The boys do call me grandma but that doesn’t make me feel old. Especially when I’m with my granddaughters I feel like a young woman! If you think old you will be old - and if you think young, you’ll stay young. 

If you, or someone you care about, has recently been diagnosed with dementia, you may feel overwhelmed by different emotions. Alzheimer’s UK has information on adjusting to your diagnosis as well as information and support for carers

Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to do it alone
Visit our dementia page
Elderly man sat on a bench with his cane