A local author, receiving support from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) after being diagnosed with dementia, has put pen to paper to tell people that you can live well with the condition.
Alan Childs, 74, from Sheringham, in Norfolk, was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, in February 2016, and remains determined to enjoy life to the full, using his writing skills to share his story and empower others.
He has been receiving support from NSFT’s Dementia and Complexity in Later Life Team (DCLL), based at the Julian Hospital, in Norwich. The team supports people experiencing memory problems with severe mental health conditions and complex physical frailties to help them live well with their mental health condition.
Lewy body dementia can affect people’s ability to understand concepts, use their memory and make judgments, some of the key skills needed for writing. People can also have periods of fluctuating alertness, alternating with periods of confusion or sleepiness, which can make daily activities increasingly difficult.
Alan has written a short article about his experience of living dementia which he hopes others will read in order to better understand what it is like to be diagnosed with the condition, and to understand that you can live a full and enriched life with the condition.
He taught in primary and middle schools in Norfolk during some of his 30 years, enthusing children with his passion for English and history. He retired in 1994 and now enjoys going away on holidays, playing his clarinet and attending photography and painting classes.
Alan was a passionate writer of local history and children’s books, with around 20 published titles to his name.
In his short article Alan speaks of the care he has received from NSFT, saying: “All dementias are serious, but we have been wonderfully blessed on our journey by having a team of marvellous medics. These specialists have been able to come to our house for every consultation.”
Alan lives at home with his wife Sarah Childs, 69, a former NHS physiotherapist, who adds: “The support we’ve received at home from the DCLL team has been great and has allowed Alan and myself more time to enjoy the things we want to do.”
Justin Cork, a Community Mental Health Nurse in the team said: “Alan had been thinking about writing another book for some time, but his condition has affected his ability to concentrate and his dexterity, so this was no longer achievable.
“I encouraged Alan to write a short article about his experiences since being diagnosed with dementia, to give him a positive focus, and to show him that he can still impact others with his writing.
“While I support Alan and Sarah with medication reviews, offering advice and answering medical questions, the most important assistance I can offer is helping them to continue to enjoy their many hobbies and interests, and for Alan to maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible.”
Alan sums up his experience, saying: “There will be ups and downs, but perhaps the secret is to grab hold of the good days and enjoy them. Maybe the number of good days will surprise you.”
If you are concerned about dementia (your memory), or someone else’s, please contact your GP for advice.
To read Alan’s story in full, visit: http://www.nsft.nhs.uk/Pages/Service-user-describes-his-experience-of-being-diagnosed-with-dementia.aspx
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