Dementia Diagnosis Doesn’t Hold You Back

24th October 2023

Dawn has early on-set dementia and is an employee at our Dementia Hwb. Read her wonderful story:

“I was lost, totally lost when I got my diagnosis on the 29th of September 2022. I was lucky to have had such a supportive family who were incredible with me, even through my darkest days. Nothing prepares you for a diagnosis like this.

“The testing for dementia came about following a funny comment from my partner, after I had started to forget daily tasks. We always poke fun at one another and one day he said ‘you’re losing your marbles’. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I realised that I definitely felt as though I was forgetting things more frequently. So I went to the Doctors.

“I did a memory test which I struggled with. What really got me was being asked to count backwards from on hundred in sevens. I was never great at maths but I got to 93 and I couldn’t go any further. That was just one of the tests but that definitely stuck with me. A scan followed that session, and I was later attended a follow up consultation to discuss the results. My daughter joined me, and I was given the news that there were visible changes in my brain.

“I felt numb. I was in shock and I didn’t know what to say. My daughter was fantastic and asked questions but I remained quiet and frozen. I had been diagnosed with early on-set dementia.

“Following that consultation, I got home and didn’t want to leave my armchair. I didn’t want to speak to anyone, I didn’t want to leave the house. I thought my life was over. I stayed at home for months.

“My family tried encouraging me to leave the house, if just for a short walk, but I just couldn’t face it. My life as I knew it had changed completely. My family wanted me to go back to work just to give me a routine and an opportunity to see others. But I didn’t know who would take me on, if I’m being completely honest. I’ve worked in the public sector my whole life and I just didn’t know what else to do.

“One day, I went to the Quadrant, after much coaxing, and we walked past the Dementia Hwb. It was like a sign. The last thing I wanted to do was walk in, but my partner Brian, managed to get me to walk through the doors. I was greeted by a wonderful lady who was unbelievably helpful but of course, I just felt exposed. I felt like she was judging me, and I asked her how she would know what I was going through. To which she responded, ‘I’ve had dementia for 10 years!’

“I couldn’t believe it. How was someone with dementia able to work in a bustling shopping centre? I snapped at her and said, ‘you don’t look like you have it’!’ She laughed and replied, ‘what am I supposed to look like?’ It’s certainly the invisible illness. I didn’t know what I expected her to look like if I’m honest.

“This was a turning point for me. My life wasn’t over, maybe I was just beginning a new chapter?

“Then another member from the team mentioned the Dementia Buddy Scheme to me. This was my chance to give back to volunteer and support others going through what I’m going through. I loved volunteering in this role and after a few months, I was offered a paid role, I couldn’t believe it.

“It’s been a rollercoaster, but I feel like I have a new lease of life, which I never thought I’d have again.

“Life doesn’t end with your diagnosis, there are so many opportunities out there and I’d advise anyone going through what I’m going through to come in for a cuppa and a chat. It may just be the best thing to happen to you. You only regret the things you don’t do.”