‘Deeply shocking’: Wife on her husband’s dementia diagnosis at 51 – early signs to spot

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When Neil became forgetful, Hannah put it down to stress – after all, he was only 51 at the time. Conversations they would have around the dinner table would seemingly slip from his mind. By the time it came to making important life decisions together, and Neil still couldn’t recall the choices they had made together, Hannah decided enough was enough. “I took him to the doctor,” Hannah stated. “He explained to the doctor that he was forgetting things, stressed and not sleeping.”

The GP then referred Neil to their local memory clinic, who then referred him to a psychiatrist for more in-depth memory tests.

“The results showed how bad his memory really was,” Hannah revealed, and Neil was later diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

With two young daughters at the time – Bessy, five, and Milly, six – Hannah found it hard to take in the news.

“It was deeply shocking,” Hannah sighed. “People don’t expect to be diagnosed with dementia in their 50s.”

Yet, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, more than 42,000 people in the UK each year are diagnosed with the condition.

“I’ve never been able to ‘switch off’ ever since the diagnosis,” Hannah confessed.

“Over time, he stopped being able to tell the time, drive or use his phone or a bank card, or find his way home.

“When your partner has dementia and you’ve also got young children to think about, you’re torn in all directions.”

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In 2019, Hannah decided to give up her good job to become Neil’s full-time carer.

Describing her life-changing decision as “really hard”, Hannah even felt “embarrassed” not to be working.

Hannah felt like the entire experience was “isolating”, but she felt deep down that her priority now had to be looking after Neil and the girls.

“There are still glimpses of Neil’s sense of humour… he was confident, loud and gregarious… I miss his personality.”

Neil can no longer find the words to communicate to Hannah, and he doesn’t remember his date of birth.

“These days, I dress, shower and feed him, and help him go to the toilet,” Hannah detailed.

“It’s not the life I envisaged for my 40s, and it wasn’t the plan that Neil and I had for our lives together.”

To dismantle a sense of powerlessness, Hannah created a cookbook with her daughter, where all the proceeds go towards the charity Dementia UK.

Dementia UK defined young onset dementia as a diagnosis of the brain condition made before the age of 65.

Symptoms of the condition typically begin from the age of 30 and onwards, which can impact mood, decision making and motivation.

A diagnosis can be extremely difficult to obtain as the condition is fairly rare, however if you are worried, speak to your doctor.

All proceeds of the cookbook, Bessy Bakes: Fond memories and fun recipes to support families affected by dementia, goes towards the charity Dementia UK.

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