Patricia's Story: "If you think old you will be old, if you think young you'll stay young"

€œI'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 went to a wellbeing place, in a pharmacy, I saw a psychiatrist and from there I went to have an MRI scan. Then these two people came to my house and said to me, "€˜you have got dementia, you've got two types" and told me the 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. Very, very deep depression. 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 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, that's what was worrying me.

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 some value and that I was going to be useful.

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

Rhinocerouses and hippopotamuses

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

The other day I couldn't remember the name of hippopotamus, the word "€˜rhinoceros" kept coming into my head. 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 it's worse. My mind feels as if it's completely blank, it sort of jams. So I aim at keeping myself well. 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 Cafe everyone is very happy, they are at different stages of dementia, but they are not morbid, or down. It would have helped having something like that, having someone to talk to, but I had nobody.

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 you along.

I have to write all my dates down now, write down all the names of people when I first meet them, I do those things now to help me with my life, to make life easier for myself. 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 I don't now. I put things where I know I'm going to find them, you learn to help yourself.

It would be nice if there were other peer-support workers in different parts of the country, these are the people who really know what's going on. I'm very pleased to be living where I'm living, and getting this opportunity. If I was living elsewhere I might not have it. And this opportunity certainly changed my life and it helped me.

I feel young!

I don't think of myself as being old, I'd rather not. 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 don't normally feel that I'm old, I feel that I'm young. I am a great grandmother and I do love being with the young people and being with my great grandsons.

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