At 53-years-old, Gary Williams was working as an IT freelancer when he was diagnosed with dementia.
“Regular work tasks became increasingly confusing. I just looked at a pile of work on the desk and thought ‘how do I do this?’”, said Gary.
Gary was told he was suffering with stress before he was eventually diagnosed with dementia in 2011 after undergoing a series of tests and a brain scan.
Worrying over whether he has locked the door, a common feature with dementia, frustrates Gary.
He enjoys travelling to Leeds via train but because dementia affects the frontal lobe which controls temporal lobes controlling concentration, the quick changing electronic time-table can cause Gary confusion when trying to comprehend times and platforms in a busy station.
“There’s no physical signs of dementia and because I look like your healthy average middle-aged man no one thinks there’s anything wrong so people don’t often give the assistance I need. If they knew my situation; they’d want to help.”
Gary said improvement to dementia-friendly services, including more fluidity between different service providers, is something he would like to see throughout the country.
Gary attends Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Cafe which he said he finds beneficial in learning to live with dementia.
But what would have improved life for Gary in the early stage of his diagnosis was having someone in the same boat to talk to.
This is something Alzheimer’s Society is currently piloting in the UK as the importance of an understanding network is now being recognised.
“There’s different stages to dementia - to make a friendship with someone at a similar stage would help.
“Some people who I had known for a number of years lost touch once they found out, they found it too difficult to deal with.
“For me, the term ‘dementia’ makes me feel uncomfortable - the words is associated with ‘demented’ - people think you’re going to be foaming at the mouth. You’re not. There’s so many levels to it.
“Of course I would prefer to live my life as it was before. I have dementia but I’m not going to give up trying, even if that means making mistakes, I will retain my independence for as long as I can. Giving up means deteriorating sooner.”
Gary asks, if this was an illness affecting younger generations would more be done to tackle the disease which is attacking the minds of older members of society?
“Nothing will turn back the deficits for people living with dementia today - it’s a case of living life as best you can. But there is hope for the future.”