'My husband can no longer remember my name'

'My husband can no longer remember my name'
From BBC - February 28, 2018

Three years ago, the Victoria Derbyshire programme asked three people with dementia to document their lives for a month. What has changed since?

Christopher's story

Christopher Devas was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2008.

When we first met him and his wife Veronica three years ago, he had difficulty remembering certain words, but was able to speak in full sentences and convey his emotions verbally.

Now, the condition means he cannot remember his wife's name.

"This is one of the things that is particularly sad," says Veronica as she records herself asking her husband what she is called, to no avail. "I do not have a name."

When first asked Christopher simply murmurs the word "oh", as he struggles to think.

"I ca not remember," he then replies.

"Everything's changed," explains Veronica, speaking directly to her husband. "It's sad, very sad, but you must not dwell on that because otherwise you'd be like that all the time.

"And I must not be sad for you, because you are positive."

Veronica says she leads a full life, taking Christopher to meet friends, to choir practice and for long walks along the Dorset coast. He still tells her he feels happy.

But at times she feels isolated - unable to communicate with her husband as she once did.

"It's lonely, yes, it is quite lonely," she says. "But then he does not realise that, so it's not as though you are living with somebody who is doing something to make you feel like that."

Christopher - a former magistrate - has now been given a disabled parking badge, which Veronica says makes life a lot less stressful.

But the invisible nature of Alzheimer's can cause problems.

Recently the couple were stopped getting into their car by someone who told them they did not look "ill enough" for the blue badge.

"'You are not disabled', this man said, as we were parked. So I said to him, 'You change spaces with me for 24 hours'."

Christopher's memory and speech may have declined, but Veronica says his "interaction and feeling has not gone... even though he may not be able to put it into words".

He claps as he sees himself on television from his first appearance on the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

He smiles affectionately as Veronica tells him: "I love you".

Wendy's story

"I used to love York. I thought it was my forever home," explains Wendy Mitchell, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's in 2013, aged just 57.

"But it became a very confusing place and I needed more silence - so that's why I moved to the village I am in now."

Over the last three years, Wendy's dementia has meant she has had to give up work and move home to live near one of her daughters.

Her new house has a picture of a forget-me-not either side of the door, so Wendy can recognise it.

"When I first moved all the houses looked the same, and I got confused as to which one I lived at. I would constantly walk up my neighbour's path," she explains.

Getting used to the inside of the new house also became a challenge.

"The kitchen used to have two doors [exiting from it], and I could never remember where each door led. I'd end up going round and round in circles," she says.

By 2050, 1.3 million people will be living at home with dementia in the UK, according to new research from the Alzheimer's Society.

The figure currently stands at just over half a million.

Keith's story


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