I am Frances and I started off in the first Dementia NI group in Antrim where I was one of the founder members.
Myself and my husband raised four children, and all was fine until 2011 when I had a serious operation. After a long recovery from the operation, my husband and my children noticed the changes. The surgeon noticed too; they thought my memory was affected by the operation. I was aware of dementia as my mother and grandmother had dementia.
After being referred to a memory clinic, then tests and CT scans it was a year later that I was diagnosed to have Frontal Lobe dementia. Dementia awareness and services were not widespread then. It was a couple of years later that I went to the Royal for an MRI scan and that is when they diagnosed Alzheimer’s. It was an early stage as I had only slight symptoms.
The diagnosis set me back, I really did feel very down. It took a wee while to accept the diagnosis as such. I was introduced to a local dementia support group that met in Antrim. I went there for a couple of weeks, but it was not for me as many there were further along the line. It was when the practice nurse at my GP surgery told me about a meeting at the Ramble Inn that seemed to be more for me.
It was there that I first met with John McErlane and others that led to us to the founding of Dementia NI. That was in 2015. It was a long haul to get Dementia NI set up and to get things together. Especially as it was 2015 when we were trying to get Stormont to provide extra money to fund dementia awareness and services across, what is now, the HSC Trusts.
Living with dementia
I want to show other people that there is life after a dementia diagnosis. I am living proof of that! I want people to know that leading an active life is much better than staying still. If you are sitting around all day doing nothing, all you can do is ponder your diagnosis.
Thankfully, I am still driving and in normal times I would be out and about with my charity work and meetings with Inner Wheel working hard to raise money for good causes. At home, I enjoy looking after my garden and proudly cooking dinner each evening with my husband.
There are several charities that I am a supporter of or directly involved in. Not least of which is Dementia NI which keeps me busy.