Jim Herrick in Cambridge, aged 77, tells us how Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are affecting his day-to-day life.
I think my illness has advanced reasonably slowly. I live on my own, I look after myself. So I can manage, although I’m not quite sure how long I can manage for. I fear I must expect the disease to advance. People seem to have enormously different experiences.
I read quite a lot. I can read a book and remember it, and not get lost. I can watch a television thriller and not get lost. I do forget things, but doesn’t everyone?
The main thing – and I think it is due to the Alzheimer’s – is that I go to bed for a couple of hours, at least twice a day, and that takes time away from me.
I feel in control of my life at the moment. There’s a certain amount of solitude, because I live on my own, but that was true even before the Alzheimer’s.
My partner died of dementia with Lewy bodies some years ago. I had a grandmother and aunt who had Alzheimer’s, which makes me wonder if it’s in the family.
There’s a park a few minutes away. I go there a few times a week for a short walk. I feel in command of that.
I have a carer who does shopping for me. I go to the theatre. I go for meals with people sometimes. I go to coffee bars. Life isn’t too bad really.
I did a lot on the computer before I retired, but now I don’t find it easy to proceed with the internet, which is a nuisance.
But I did do quite a few Zoom calls during lockdown, with friends and a book club. I played chess on Zoom, but I’m finding that more difficult now. I look at the strategy and my mind goes foggy.
I attend a mature gay men and women’s group in Cambridge now and then. They meet once a week and during lockdown it had to be on Zoom.
I used to get a call about once a month from Alzheimer’s Society. I didn’t know sleeping so much can be a symptom, but the dementia support lady told me that. It's really helpful to know.
Age UK organised someone who visits once a week, just to have a chat for an hour. I’ve been impressed by both Age UK and Alzheimer’s Society.
I think the prejudice against Alzheimer’s is possibly worse than the prejudice against gay people. I notice in myself – I don’t mind telling people some things about me, but I don’t like telling them I have Alzheimer’s.
I’d be prepared to consider attending a dementia-specific LGBT group, where I can be myself. I don’t especially want 100% of my friends to be gay, but it’s nice to have some.
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