IN the first of a series of special articles ahead of Dementia Action Week, Courant reporter Georgia Langdon hears from families living with dementia.

A MAN caring for his wife with dementia has said within a year of her diagnosis, ‘she has lost everything.’

Andy Olgethorpe’s wife Kim (61) has early-onset Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed in February 2021 but had been struggling for some years prior with her memory.

She had been a deputy head, while Andy was a headteacher. They have both now had to give up their careers in teaching due to the illness.

“You go from being in a really high-level position of responsibility and then feeling you can’t do the basics,” said Andy (56), of Ponteland.

“She was incredibly independent, realising that that’s going and she’s becoming more reliant on me, she had to pretend it wasn’t happening.

“I think one of the scary things about going to the GP and the consultant was the fact that you felt like you were failing a test. She definitely felt humiliated by the whole process.”

Andy and Kim enjoyed foreign travel and walking before her illness; they have recently gotten a tandem bike.

Andy added: “Lockdown was really difficult; it must have speeded up the deterioration of the illness because of the isolation.

“Within the year of diagnosis, she’s absolutely lost everything. She used to read a book a week; she can’t read, she can’t write.

“I get fulfilment out of being a carer but I do feel lonely because Kim’s ability to talk and coverse about things is really limited.

“She’s a really resilient person; I hardly ever saw her depressed. And last year, she was really depressed, and I think it was because she was really struggling with the complexities of it. I think she now feels that people have to accept her as she is.”

Jeanette Roper (90) has Alzheimer’s type Dementia. She moved in with her daughter Lorraine Lathan in Prudhoe during lockdown.

Lorraine said: “You’ve got somebody that needs you. You’ve got to think about that before you do anything.”

Jeanette was diagnosed during lockdown online with some home consultations.

“It affected her not seeing anybody; that was when she got worse”, Lorraine said.