My name is Danny. Around 5 years ago, I noticed I wasn’t remembering things as well as I used to. I was only 52, so dementia wasn’t something that we thought was on the horizon. After some tests the doctor told my wife and I that I had vascular dementia. It was earth shattering.
Initially you feel as if your life has come to an end. I had thought it was an illness that only affected older people. You never know what life will throw at you. The first thing that came into my mind was ‘how is this going to change our lives?’. Not just the immediate future, but overtime, because we know this is a progressive illness.
My outlook was to be the best husband and father that I could be, regardless of the diagnosis. I am still the same person, and I hope that will be the case for a long time to come. The changes are in my brain, but I still feel things the same as I did before.
Catherine, my wife, looked up the number for the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Resource Centre and the next day a Dementia Advisor came and spent a bit of time with us. She gave us so much information and told me about the different activities I could get involved with, such as the allotment project or the Every Voice Choir. I don’t have the best voice but going along lifts my mood and my spirits. You know you are among friends. To be able to focus on something and put your diagnosis on the back burner is a great thing to see. Dementia doesn’t define me, I define dementia.
I do wonder where we would be if Catherine hadn’t made that call to Alzheimer Scotland. I see the place as a home from home, and that’s the magic for me.
Danny and I have been married for 35 years. We’ve had some rocky patches as Danny’s health hasn’t always been great but, no matter what’s thrown at us, we always work through it together. I think that’s the secret. We’ve got two fabulous kids that are really supportive and actually quite clever and sensible – I’m not quite sure how that happened!
The way Danny’s diagnosis was delivered to us was quite blunt. We were left wondering what our next steps should be. For me, not being in control was my biggest fear. We had our life planned. Not to the letter, but we were looking forward to growing older and having lots of free time to spend together.
Our plans were taken from us over the course of a single visit to the psychiatrist. I sometimes feel we’ve been robbed - but Danny’s still Danny. He’s still got a wicked sense of humour. He’s still very tactile. He’s still very loving. He’s still my husband.
It’s been different. It’s been unexpected but we’ve found the positives in it. Through our Dementia Advisor I got involved in carer’s group and attended on a 6 week course which had lots of practical advice but also lots of social and emotional support from the other carers. There were some tears, there was lots of laughter. It was good to know that we weren’t on our own.
Alzheimer Scotland has given me back some of that control. I like to plan things, so I’ve organised trips to the theatre and to the cinema for other carers. When we couldn’t all get together through the pandemic we set up zoom calls and whatsapp groups to keep in touch. It’s sometimes hard to believe that 5 years ago we didn’t even know each other!
There’s just so many little moments of magic. Our social life is predominantly people we know through Alzheimer Scotland because that’s where Danny feels most relaxed. And if Danny is happy, I’m happy. Ours kids get involved too, and come along to the quiz night at the Dementia Resource Centre. Our son is quite the film and music buff so we often win with them on our team. It’s now at the point where other teams try and poach them! It’s a good bit of banter.
No matter what, we know that we’re all in it together… me, Danny, our kids, our friendship group, and the team at Alzheimer Scotland.