A father of two told how, after he was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 52, he felt like “my life was over”
Danny McDonald reports that when he admitted that he struggled to focus at work, doctors initially believed he was suffering from depression.
Danny McDonald, now 55, however, says it was lucky that he was referred for a CT scan by his primary care doctor, which confirmed that he has vascular dementia, a common type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.
Bad concentration and mood swings are among the signs.
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Mr. McDonald, who lives with his wife Catherine in Clydebank, says that despite the difficulties, his son and daughter, who were both in their teens at the time, dealt with the diagnosis “very well” He said, “The roles of parents and children are reversed. They take care of me now.”
He had to quit his work with the homelessness service of Falkirk Council and claims it was a colleague who noticed his behavioral changes.
“I was on the night shift and our computer system had changed and one of my colleagues spent most of the night explaining it to me,” he said.
I couldn’t remember in the morning the individual steps that were needed. A boss took me aside shortly afterwards and said, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but the simplest tasks you don’t recall.’ So I went to the doctor and they did the memory task and I got a CT scan.
Due to my age, I think they were very shocked, but they also said they would have it checked out. The diagnosis was originally depression, but when I got the scan, they found that I had vascular dementia and had a dementia-related silent stroke. Since then, I’ve had a couple more small strokes.
“You feel like your life is finished at the beginning. It was an illness that affected older people, I thought. What life has in store for you, you don’t know.
“But the next day we called Alzheimer Scotland and a dementia consultant came to our home.”
About 3,500 Scots are estimated to be affected, according to Susan Rendell, who has assisted younger people affected by dementia on behalf of the charity and also serves as a training consultant. As patients may have young families and are likely to work full time, she said care needs may be different than for older people.
As with older persons, however, the fear of the potential burden of treatment and financial obligation that will fall on partners is present.
Ms. Rendell said, “In younger people, dementias such as frontotemporal dementia and Pick’s disease tend to be less common. There is still a perception that dementia is a disease for older people. However, at any age, it can affect anyone. I believe that with advances in society, primary care physicians are better able to diagnose dementia, but problems are still present.”
“We need to make sure Danny’s positive experience is repeated.”
Mr. McDonald supports Alzheimer Scotland, funded by the Think Dementia movement, which advocates for free access to treatment for people with dementia in the last few years or months of their lives.
He said, ‘It’s a matter of concern. My wife has the power of attorney, and you don’t know what kind of treatment you’d need if you deteriorate quickly.
By 2050, the number of patients with dementia could double, a study warns.
The father of two, meanwhile, says that he’s only getting on with his life and says that being diagnosed with dementia has always had a positive effect.
“He said, “I’m not worried about the future too much. I may live a further 20 years at the age I am. In comparison, I could live for another five years, too. You’re just getting the best out of today. Now my kids are grown, and it would be good to see my grandkids.
“We’re lucky in Clydebank that we have a dementia center right on our doorstep. We go to a community choir which is there for everyone but also for people with dementia, we go to a supper club and I go to a day center twice a week. In many ways, it’s been a positive experience.”