As part of Alzheimer’s Society's Dementia Awareness Week, which runs until Saturday, we take a look about what it means to live with dementia, and what people can do to help....
For many, leaving the cupboard doors open would be put down as a natural part of ageing. But for Ken Nicholls, it was the first sign of his dementia.
The 75-year-old, of Shaftesbury Drive, Maidstone, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease around six months ago after he began forgetting things. But while some might be fearful in the face of the condition, Mr Nicholls has a different outlook.
“I am very pragmatic, I just accept it,” he told the Kent Messenger. “I’ve got it so I’ve got it. Some people refuse to do that, but it makes it much easier. I might get angry at myself when I forget things, I keep bashing into cupboard doors. I’ve walked into the patio doors, which really hurt.
“My wife and I have even cancelled a foreign holiday because I was concerned about what I would do if I got parted from her. But generally we haven’t let it affect our lives.
“I still have my independence and I’ve had a great deal of help, meaning I can plan for what happens next.”
The retired accountant has joined a number of Alzheimer’s Society groups, including a dementia cafe, while his wife of 47 years, Carol, has been on a carer’s course run by Bay Tree House.
And Kent County Council has helped him with equipment to stop falls at home, caused by changes in his perception, as well as a card to carry, which tells people about his condition in the case of an emergency.
“I still have my independence and I’ve had a great deal of help, meaning I can plan for what happens next" - Ken Nicholls
He says that his early diagnosis, and having the tools in place to deal with dementia is key to learning to live well with the condition.
Mr Nicholls added: “We’re both worried about the future, of course we are.
“But it helps that I’ve spoken to other people deeper into it so I know what to expect.”
This Dementia Awareness Week, May 14-20, Alzheimer’s Society is asking people to unite against dementia.
Staff from the Kent Messenger signed up to the charity's Dementia Friends scheme, which aims to change perceptions and promote a greater understanding of the small things people can do to help.
Dementia Friends champion Denise Wilton led the session, which explained the ways it can affect people beyond memory loss, and how it is possible to live well with the condition.
The staff then each pledged to take an action to help, such as raising awareness among family and friends or visiting someone they know who is living with dementia.
Ms Wilton began volunteering last October, after her father Allen developed the condition, and has already led sessions for around 70 people.
The 45-year-old said: “When he was diagnosed it felt like there wasn’t enough information about dementia. I wish I knew more about it at the start, now I know how important it is to understand and adapt.
“It’s not about whether he recognises you or remembers seeing you, it is about those moments you see him smile and you see his eyes light up.”
To watch videos or find out how you can get involved, click here