Dementia after coronavirus: Looking forward to more ups than downs

Michael Keenan in Omagh, aged 61 and living with young-onset Alzheimer’s, shares his experiences of the pandemic and hopes for the future.

There have been an awful lot of ups and downs in the last year, probably more downs. You’ve been very curtailed in what you can and can’t do.

There’s very little physical approach with people. You get used to it being the norm, but it’s not a very nice norm. 

I live on my own, though I’m blessed with a close and good family. I love being around people. I would’ve been visiting my sister and her grandkids – that stopped.

Bernadine McCrory, Paula Bradley, Michael Keenan

Michael Keenan with (left) Bernadine McCrory, the Society’s Country Director for Northern Ireland, and Paula Bradley, MLA for Belfast North. 

Before the pandemic, there wasn’t much time to think. Then there was too much time to think. I’m usually a glass half full man, but this last year it’s been more glass half empty. I call it feeling sorry for myself, but we’re all allowed a bit of that. 

It’s a dangerous way when you get yourself down, so if you’ve got a contact, talk to them. Spill your heart out – it seems that you can unload your problems and your day becomes so much better. I’ve done it.

Press the orange play button to hear Michael’s story in his own words:

Getting there 

I’m a steering group member for 3NDWG, the 3 Nations Dementia Working Group. I was spending quite a lot of time travelling back and forth to meetings before. 

I like the 3NDWG meetings, because I feel I’m with friends, and we seem to have achieved something. And you’re living the same experiences as others, ups or downs – it doesn’t always have to be good news. 

Alzheimer’s Society has been an awful lot of help to me. I used to do the talks, it was exhilarating. I’d talk about dementia to teenagers at schools and universities, they took it in like sponges. They’re the people you need to get the message out to. It’s organised through James Erskine in the Dementia Voice team – he’s very hands on. 

We met the DUP and Sinn Féin before the pandemic, promoting the cause. Even during the pandemic, we were able to visit Stormont and the MLAs came out and met us. They were breaking their necks to get a photo with us – good PR for them! But there was a sincerity from them that I liked. 

We’re getting there. I’ve got more campaigning to look forward to, which I relish.

Great to wake up 

I’m diabetic and I was very positive about getting the vaccine. Maybe we’ve got something to look forward to, if this can all ease off a wee bit. In truth, I’m apprehensive about mixing with people again. But I think things will be very interesting as to what’s going to happen. 

I make the most of life, take what it gives you. I enjoy life to the full. I have the wee dark days, but when I’m on top form, which I am most of the time, it’s great to wake up in the morning, Alzheimer’s or not. 

I’ve been dealt the hand I’ve been dealt, but if I can do anything to promote what Alzheimer’s Society does, I will do it.

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Dementia together magazine: June/July 21

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now
Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now