Great Barton grandmother Hazel Andrews takes dementia diagnosis in her stride
A stoic former nurse from Suffolk has spoken about how she is adapting to life with dementia.
Hazel Andrews, from Great Barton, was diagnosed with vascular dementia in April last year at the age of 74, after she noticed a deterioration in her short-term memory.
“You know when you go out of a room and you forget what you went for? I wasn’t even getting to the door before I forgot and that happened for a couple of years before I went to the GP,” said Mrs Andrews, who has two children, John, 51, and Louise, 50, and four grandchildren.
The diagnosis did not come as a surprise to Mrs Andrews as her late mother and maternal grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease, and one of her sisters is currently living with the condition.
Mrs Andrews, now 75, was referred to Suffolk’s award-winning Dementia Together service – a one-stop helpline launched last April and co-ordinated by charity Sue Ryder.
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She was subsequently linked with dementia navigator Lisa Frain, who advocates for the family and offers advice and guidance.
Working as a nurse from the ages of 18 to 48, Mrs Andrews has adopted a practical approach to her illness and was eager to get plans in place for when it progresses.
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With support from Mrs Frain, Mrs Andrews has arranged a care home placement, and has filled in the My Care Wishes Folder to set out how she wants to be cared for in later life.
“It’s given me the peace of mind that I can sit back and wait for it to happen,” said Mrs Andrews, who is telling her story to mark Dementia Action Week (May 21-27). “Last year it was new and I was a bit bothered about it, but now I hardly think about it and now I don’t have to worry about what will happen to me because I know what I want to happen and have made that clear.”
Mrs Andrews said she didn’t want her husband of 30 years, David, 73, to become her full-time carer, like her father had been for her mother.
She is also keen to break down the misconception that all dementia patients are “going round the bend”, as many were able to continue leading a fulfilling life.
Her illness is in its early stages and while Mrs Andrews said her mind was “foggy”, she is still able to do activities she loves including reading and playing the keyboard.
However, Mrs Andrews admitted her confidence had been knocked, and she often avoided outings because she felt safer at home.
An estimated 12,800 people in Suffolk are currently living with dementia. By 2035, this is expected to rise to nearly 25,000.
Mrs Frain said she wanted to see all public buildings made dementia-friendly, in the same they were wheelchair accessible.
She added: “Little things can make a big difference to someone and help them maintain their independence.”