The Care Magazine spoke to Peter Nelson, who is using his own experience of living with Alzheimer’s disease to help educate communities about dementia
Peter Nelson, 67, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in early 2017; he now helps inform people about the condition through his involvement with the Dementia Friends initiative.
“Doing things like this keeps my mind occupied – it’s better than sitting at home dwelling on things,” said Peter.
“I’m involved with a lot of things in the community – it keeps my brain active, which you have to do. The doctors said it could slow the Alzheimer’s down by up to five years,” he said.
Coming to terms with the diagnosis
Peter was diagnosed after increasing issues with memory loss led to him having an ECG and memory test. The specialist told him that he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and he began using medication to control the symptoms.
Peter sought support from the Alzheimer’s Society after a recommendation from his specialist. He believes it is an invaluable relationship that helps him deal with his dementia.
“It’s helped me a lot and given me more confidence,” said Peter. “I know that they’re at the end of the phone if I want any help, and so when they ask me to do something like this event I say yes.”
Despite Peter keeping an active social life, and even organising events and charity visits at his sheltered housing, he does concede that some of the public’s limited understanding of dementia has affected aspects of his day-to-day life.
“I don’t like big crowds now,” he said. “I couldn’t go to a football match; couldn’t go to Preston shopping in a crowd. I’m always conscious, when I’m out of my comfort zone, that people find me hard to understand.”
“People need to be more patient sometimes,” he said. “If you come into contact with somebody and they’re stumbling with their words, please be patient and they’ll get there. They’ll also they’ll get more confident from being shown that patience.”
Peter is positive that initiatives such as Dementia Friends will raise the awareness and understanding of dementia across the UK. This, he believes, will greatly improve the lives of those living with the disease; he has his own suggestions of what people can do to help.
“What I’d like is if people in shops would put a sign in the window to say that they’re dementia-friendly,” he said.
“If people see a notice in the window – ‘we are dementia-friendly’ – then they’re going to think ‘I can go in there and people will understand me’.
“I treat this now as just another illness, you just can’t see it,” he said. “It’s not a thing you can go through all on your own. You’ve got to have support, but you can live well with it.”
Read more about Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends initiative here