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Man receives 'nightmare' diagnosis after asking same questions over and over

Phil Burdekin, 63, was diagnosed with young-onset dementia after struggling with memory problems for 20 years. Phil often put his forgetfulness down to stress, but as his memory got worse, he decided to see a doctor.

A dad from Southport received a shock diagnosis after missing turns on motorways and forgetting appointments.

Phil Burdekin, 63, was diagnosed with young-onset dementia after struggling with memory problems for 20 years. Phil often put his forgetfulness down to stress, but as his memory got worse, he decided to see a doctor.

The Liverpool Echo reports that in the UK, around 900,000 suffer from dementia, with nearly 5 per cent of those, 42,000, having young-onset. For the illness to be classed as young-onset, the condition develops before the age of 65.

Read more:The early signs which might show you have Alzheimer's

The Alzheimer’s society has conducted new research which reveals that 27 per cent of people diagnosed waited more than two years after noticing symptoms and getting a diagnosis as many assumed the symptoms were simply signs of ageing.

The main symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the early stages are lapses in memory, which could present in a variety of ways. For example, someone with Alsheimer’s disease could forget about recent conversations, misplace items, or ask the same questions repeatedly.

For Phil, repeating questions became a common occurrence. Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, he said: "I was getting worried - I didn't know what it was, and then my wife got fed up of me asking the same questions again and again, so she said I'd better go to the doctor.

“It was a nightmare coming up to it. It was very stressful. I cried a lot. It was killing me not knowing anything."

Phil was 55 when a scan revealed he had vascular dementia, which is the second most common type of the condition after Alzheimer’s Disease. According to the NHS, symptoms, which often get worse over time, include memory and language problems, slowness of thought,feeling disoriented and more.

Phil Burdekin was 55 when a scan revealed he had vascular dementia
Phil Burdekin was 55 when a scan revealed he had vascular dementia (Image: Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

Despite struggling with his memory for two decades, Phil said: "I'm glad I went when I did because I think I'd be a lot worse now if I didn't."

Phil struggled with his mental health following his diagnosis, with fears of forgetting his family who have been his support system since his diagnosis. His 11 year-old daughter is ‘light of [his] life at the moment’ and his ex-wife is still his carer.

However, he worries about his condition worsening over time and recently experienced a terrifying hallucination where he thought he saw teenagers having a party on the grass near his house, only to realise they weren’t there at all.

He has found himself on the outside of conversations as they tend to go over his head and sometimes feels as if people don’t include him anymore as they’re lost for what to say. He explained: "Pity, that - I used to enjoy myself. I felt rotten, suicidal even. It's difficult and I felt down, just trying to get myself out of that situation. It does affect you a lot, and you find that some people won't bother talking to you anymore because they don't know what to say. It's very lonely."

Despite this, Phil is determined to stay positive and enjoys crosswords, puzzles and online colouring. He also joined a support group in Southport which helped him to find new friends in the same situation.

He added: "After getting the diagnosis, life carries on and with time you become more accepting of it. I joined a support group in Southport where I met other people in the same situation as me and I made new friends. This brought a lot more positivity and the fears of having a dementia diagnosis started disappearing as it made me feel I wasn't alone. Getting a diagnosis has changed my life, for the better in some ways."

There is no cure for dementia, but research is constantly being carried out to find out how to slow the illness. A healthier diet, exercise and less smoking and drinking can help to slow the condition’s development, as following these rules can help to reduce the speed at which brain cells are damaged or lost, according to the NHS.

Steve Green, the Alzheimer's Society's area manager for Merseyside and Cheshire, where 31,957 people have dementia, said: "Asking the same question over and over again is not called getting old, it's called getting ill. If you're worried for yourself or someone you love, take the first step this Dementia Action Week – come to Alzheimer's Society for support.

“The stark findings of our survey show just how dangerous it can be to battle dementia symptoms alone and put off getting help. "Yes, getting a diagnosis can be daunting, but it is worth it.

“More than nine in 10 people with dementia told us they benefited from getting a diagnosis – it gave them crucial access to treatment, care and support, and precious time to plan for the future. With the pandemic causing diagnosis rates to plunge, it's more important than ever to seek help.

“You don't have to face dementia alone, we're here to support everyone affected."

Dr Jill Rasmussen, the Royal College of General Practitioners' clinical representative for dementia, said: "It's vital for patients, their families and GPs that conversations with the potential for a diagnosis of dementia are timely and effective. This resource could make a real difference in identifying those people who require referral for a more detailed evaluation and diagnosis of their problems.

“We're asking anyone who is worried about possible dementia symptoms to use the checklist and share it with their primary care team."

For Dementia Action Week, running from Monday, May 16 to Sunday, May 22, Alzheimer's Society urged people worried about themselves or someone they love to contact the charity for support. You can visit alzheimers.org.uk/memoryloss or call 0333 150 3456.

For callers who do not have English as their language of choice, Alzheimer's Society can arrange a simultaneous language translation service.

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