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Sunday, 16 September, 2001, 00:18 GMT 01:18 UK
The 'living nightmare' of dementia
Older man
James has now started to rebuild his life
As dementia sufferers call for the right to know the truth about their illness, BBC News Online talks to one man who was kept in the dark about his worsening condition for nearly a decade.

Eight years ago James started to realise he was having problems at work. He started forgetting people's names and what he was supposed to be doing.

As his memory got worse, the civil servant went to his doctor for help.

He told the doctor he was seriously worried about his worsening medical condition and whether he should still be driving. He explained he was losing his short term memory.

His doctor reassured him that there was nothing major to worry about and insisted he was safe to be behind the wheel of a car as long as he kept to familiar roads.

It was a living nightmare


But one day James found himself ploughing the wrong way down a dual carriageway. He also found that roundabouts confused him and he realised he would have to give up driving or risk a serious accident.

"I could have killed myself and I could have killed others," he said.

'Big strain'

Frustrated with the lack of help from his GP over eight worrying years, James asked to be transferred to the care of other professionals.

Finally he got the news that he was suffering from dementia.

And although this was a shock diagnosis, the 60-year-old said it was vital for him and his wife to know.

"It had been a big strain on the family. I kept on accusing my wife of moving things. She thought I was lying and I thought she was lying.

"When I found things lying in the fridge I would not accept that I had put them there.

"It was a living nightmare."

New hope

Since the diagnosis James says he has been filled with hope.

He has taken up photography again and is compiling a calendar to aid fellow dementia sufferers. He has started to polish stones and even compose music.

"I was glad I was told, because you can deal with it.

"I've often said, if you know what you have got, you can deal with it. I'm not saying you can cure it or get round it.

"The way you deal with it is up to yourself, sit at home and vegetate or 'get a life' as the young kids say now.

"It is not the end of the world. It is the beginning of a new life."

See also:

08 Sep 01 | Health
Black dementia sufferers targeted
23 Aug 01 | Health
Dementia care 'sub-standard'
19 Jun 01 | Health
Daffodil dementia drug hailed
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