"My mother's diagnosis of - and death from - Alzheimer's"

About: Charing Cross Hospital / Neurology

(as a relative),

My mother, then aged 92, was suffering from some sort of memory loss. She was quite able to function at home, and was physically active - always keen to take the bus to go to or allotment, for example. But her memory for names, in particular, was going, and there was a suggestion she was suffering from Alzheimers.

Thankfully, at a time when GPs are being encouraged to diagnose dementia and she could easily have been written off as having Alzheimer's, she was seen by the excellent Orleans-Foli of the Memory Clinic in Hammersmith, London (near to where my ma lived).

He did a number of tests, which confirmed my own suspicion that while her memory was getting worse, she was a long way from being in as bad a state as some doctors had appeared to believe. Dr Orleans-Foli explained that she had nominative aphasia, a deteriorating inability to find the right word, and that over time this could turn into Alzheimer's. But for the time being my mother, as indomitable, physically strong and independent as one could be at that age, was able to manage on her own at home.

I am hugely grateful for this diagnosis. As a result, she was able to live a vigorous and independent life, in which friends and neighbours shared, knowing that her memory was far from perfect but essentially she was functioning OK.

Dr Orleans-Foli kept watch on her for the next two years, and it was only this last January that it was evident that Alzheimer's had taken a grip. In the event, it was a matter of weeks after that, as we were looking for a deeper degree of care, that she suffered a stroke. She was admitted to hospital and suffered a second stroke there.

She died two weeks after she and I had had a delightful walk to the local park where she had been a her usual friendly, warm self - and people had reciprocated. Had she been 'written off' two years earlier by a GP without Dr Orleans-Foli's grasp of the subject, I dread to think what constraints she might have had to live under.

Latterly, though, she did need more care at home, and I only wish social services had been less rigid in their understanding of what she needed. Sadly the tick box culture still seems to prevail there, with insufficient understanding of the needs of the individual.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››