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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 3 July, 2020

'I went into a bit of a depression': How an Alzheimer's diagnosis can upend a family's life

A new campaign is highlighting the important role friends and family can have in helping a loved one care for someone with dementia.

Source: HSE Ireland/YouTube

JANE MULLAN FIRST noticed that something was wrong with her husband Sean when issues started to arise around money and shopping.

“He did the shopping every week and he was buying the same things over and over again,” said Jane.

“The presses were piling up with stuff. And money was going astray. I had to take over looking after the finances, which I felt was quite a betrayal.”

Sean began to forget what he had spent money on and where it had gone, even though he had always been the one responsible for the finances.

Later, after a series of tests, Sean was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite an initial sense of relief at finally having a diagnosis to work off, Jane found the news hard to handle.

“I was almost happy when we got the news because we finally had a diagnosis,” she said.

“But, following that, there were so many practical things that had to be done – we had to get him tested to see if he could drive and apply for so many other things.

Then I stopped for a couple of months and went in to a bit of a depression, it was all just too much for me.

Jane found herself sinking into a two-month depression when trying to deal with the weight of the news.

It was at this point that she found great help in her family and friends.

“I told our neighbours and friends. It was important that people would be able to look out for him,” she said.

Everyone has been fantastic. Most people will always ask you how he is.

Jane’s son Conor and his wife Chloe eventually moved in to help with Sean’s care. This has been very important in helping her.

“I think I was quite lonely and quite lost before they moved in,” she said.

Jane and Sean’s story is being highlighted as part of a campaign around the important role friends and family can have in helping a loved one care for someone with dementia.

The Dementia: Understand Together initiative is led by the HSE working in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio.

There are currently 55,000 people in Ireland currently living with dementia, with about an additional 4,000 people developing it each year. It’s estimated that by 2040, the number of people with dementia in Ireland will have doubled.

Commenting on the campaign, Professor Brian Lawlor, consultant psychiatrist and chair of the campaign, said that carers can need a lot of help and support.

“Don’t underestimate the difference that continued friendship and emotional support can make,” he said.

It goes a long way towards improving the health and wellbeing of the carer and lessens the sense of loneliness they can experience.

Jane said that Sean continues to live a happy and fulfilling life and that they are both very grateful for the help and support they receive.

“Sean continues to go on holiday with his friends regularly and it’s a great break for me.

It is good to be able to have that space to yourself.

You can learn more at

Read: There may be a link between hearing loss and dementia – Trinity study

Read: Study shows video games could cut dementia risk in seniors

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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