A former Lancashire defence worker has shared his experience of being diagnosed with dementia in a bid to help other sufferers seek help as soon as they can.
Barry Newton, 66, of Lytham, was diagnosed with dementia two years ago. He is one of several county residents who took part in a special video project to mark Dementia Awareness Week. .
He had enjoyed a successful career with senior positions at the Ministry of Defence and other government departments when he started noticing changes in his memory and speech and sought medical help find out what was the problem.
Encouraging others to follow his example he said: “I am having treatment for my condition which has really helped me. I have also been involved in a clinical trial and participating in dementia research makes me feel like I am contributing to make things better for others.”
Lancashire County Council now wants the public to see the video as part of its work to increase early diagnosis of dementia in the county.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health and Wellbeing at Lancashire County Council said: “We want to encourage people to talk about dementia because detecting early can often lead to better support for people with dementia and their families. This project is important to show the challenges that are faced as well as inspiring stories to show how people are living well with dementia.”
“ It can be difficult to start a conversation with someone if you are concerned that they may be showing signs of dementia, but those who get help earlier have a better quality of life for longer. I’d encourage anyone to find out more about the symptoms on our website www.lancashire.gov.uk/dementia and if they are still worried, arrange a memory check with their GP.”
Barry said: “Before my diagnosis I was enjoying a full and active life but I started noticing changes in my memory and my speech and getting anxious about it. After speaking to my wife, I took the decision myself to go to the doctor and find out what the cause was. I was worried about the consequences of carrying on regardless and not doing anything.
“I have always had to make big decisions throughout my working life about contracts and organisational processes so it was a real shock to find out I had the early signs of dementia and I felt powerless. I also struggled to talk to the rest of the family about it at first. They were not ready to accept my diagnosis and would tell me to stop worrying as they thought I was fine at the moment.
“Many people are reluctant to go to the doctor because they think that even if it is dementia there’s nothing that can be done about it. My advice to them is that if they themselves are worried or if a family member is worried about someone they know, I’d tell them to find out more and make the appointment as there are things that can be done to help.”
He added: “I have been involved in my local Dementia Action Alliance to help improve the lives of people with dementia and also a project to build a lifelong home for myself and share what I learn to build better homes for those living with dementia. This has made me feel more in control and that I’m not just sitting there, I can make a difference.
Despite, my diagnosis I still have an active life and I plan to continue with my consultancy work once I feel able to start again. I have made more decisions on a personal level, including about the most important partnership in my life with my wife Linda. We have had to change the way we make decisions and adjust roles and responsibilities, but at the moment I am managing my condition and my family are now really supportive.”
The video stories can be viewed at http://www.patientvoices.org.uk/di.htm
PHOTO: County Coun Azhar Ali, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing at Lancashire County Council (far left) with members of the group involved in the Dementia Patient Voices project.