On day nine of DAI's World Alzheimer’s Month #WAM2018 series of #Hello my name is blogs, we share one of our UK members stories of living well with dementia. Thank you Jennifer for allowing DAI to publish this during September to help us raise awareness of dementia, and the fact that so many people can live positively with it.
Jennifer has represented DAI twice this year, giving presentions at the ADI Alzheimer's University in London, and the photo we have added here was taken last week. See this tweet thread to read how well her presentation was received.
A Glorious Opportunity
Dr Jennifer Bute, Fellow of the Royal College of General Physicians, lives in Somerset in a Dementia friendly village.
Jennifer worked in Africa as a Doctor before working as a GP for 25 years also training medical students and Doctors. She resigned as a GP 12 years ago as she knew things were not right and was diagnosed 9 years ago with Alzheimer's Dementia. This is her story.
I now know illness can precipitate dementia but I did not realise that in August 2004 when I had a ‘mini stroke’ I lost the use of my left arm and was sent to the TIA clinic. I continued working but began to get seriously lost when visiting patients so I just bought a satnav eventually needing it to find my way to our branch surgery or even to get home.
In January 2005 I had a bizarre episode when I did not know what to do with my shopping in the supermarket and this alarmed me sufficiently to return to my GP who referred me to a neurologist who said there was nothing the matter with me implying I was attention seeking when I said I did not recognise friends and neighbours . I decided to find more ways to cover up problems and remain safe. Later I had a gas leak check done on our house and the drains checked at work not realising I was having olfactory hallucinations. I could no longer lecture from memory so I started using Power Point Presentations to help.
My defining moment came at the end of 2005 when I was chairing an important Case conference at work, I did not recognise colleagues I had known for 20 years and persisted asking them who they were and why they were there. So in 2006 I agreed to see a 2nd neurologist who was surprised I had had no investigations. The neuropsychology consultant said I did indeed have problems and was not sure I was or would remain safe professionally My patients and high standards were paramount so I resigned. The neurologist said the abnormal results were of no significance.
By January 2008, I developed auditory/visual hallucinations hearing children screaming babies crying and was seen conducting conversations with non-present people I wrote myself detailed instructions on how to make a cup of tea, put washing powder in the washing machine I would have to be reminded to cook meals and might cook supper twice on the same day. One day I did not recognise my husband. I knew I had dementia.
In 2009 the 2nd neurologist was very annoyed I had resigned from work. I could no longer read easily and when the insurance company spoke to me on the phone I thought they were speaking Chinese. I had another neuropsychological assessment and it was such a relief when it was explained I used non verbal and contextual clues to work things out my intelligence enabled me to cover up and was sent to Peter Garrad whom I found on the internet had done work on Iris Murdoch and Harold Wilson so when he told me in 2009 I had Younger Onset Alzheimer's I was just so relieved.
He started me on Aricept which caused terrible nightmares but we found ways of coping and later Memantine, within 3 months my family were amazed at my improvement I am able to talk (unless tired) most of my hallucinations went. Although they have now returned and often shake my sense of reality However I passionately believe there are ways round problems and we can even reverse some of the decline.
I have started a memory group for folk where I live based on the Japanese model of using the three R’s (Reading Writing and Arithmetic) with amazing results.
The spiritual never dies I have no fear of the future I know exactly what lies ahead.
For me my Dementia is an unexpected gift, a wonderful opportunity and great privilege.
My husband was a great supporter until he died unexpectedly 7 years ago but I have a wonderful family, 3 married children in various parts of the world My networked computer is my back up brain I can’t manage the phone but I can do emails and Facebook as they have visual clues.
My father had dementia so I understand a carers perspective too Where I now live there are many who walk this path and I am always learning and finding new ways to also help others cope. My son set up my website gloriousopportunity.org and makes my educative films which are all available there to anyone.
There are no rainbows without rain!
Jennifer Bute © 2018