Vascular dementia runs in Peter Mcardle’s family history - his father had the illness - and at the age of 64, Peter was diagnosed with the condition which is caused by a reduced blood flow to the brain.
The ‘misfiring’ of messages to the brain affects Peter’s short-term memory, cognitive thinking, language and understanding.
Peter often misplaces his Mytholymroyd house keys and asks his wife and full-time carer, Margaret, for a cup of tea a few times too many in the course of a day.
Peter and Margaret, who met in 1968, have been living with dementia for three years now.
The initial diagnosis, prompted after Peter grew more confused and forgetful, turned their lives upside down. The couple say they felt alone and wondered where to turn for support.
Margaret said: “It was hard to accept at first, you never think it will happen to you, but now it’s a part of our everyday life we make light of it in order to cope.”
Since joining various support groups through Calderdale’s Alzheimer’s Society, the couple say everyday life has actually got easier and Peter now thinks more independently.
Once a week, Peter attends either Happy Cafe at Hebden Bridge Town Hall or Living with Dementia Group. Together, Peter and Margaret attend Singing for the Brain - something they both look forward to.
“I sing-along with my tambourine and it lifts my spirits,” said Peter.
Peter says he now takes more pleasure in the little things in life.
“Being able to speak with other people is massive - only people with dementia can understand where someone is coming from - dementia is my world now,” said Peter.
Peter said Margaret is now primarily his carer and secondly, his wife.
“Being a full-time carer is demanding and testing that’s why it’s important to get the support that’s out there.
“People don’t understand dementia - they think they are mentally ill - but it’s just another illness which people need to start to understand,” said Margaret.
Through national dementia awareness, Peter hopes people with dementia will stop apologising.
“We’re forever apologising when we can’t recall a name we forget for a few minutes - just be patient with us, we’ll get there in the end.
“While I can I’m going to enjoy my time. Since my diagnosis I have so much love to give people.
“I’ve always been a jolly and optimistic person and I’m going to try to not let dementia take that away from me.
“I have dementia; I’m not a mad axe man.”