Elspeth's story

This video is an interview with Elspeth, about her experience of life before and after revealing her dementia diagnosis


Video transcription

Elspeth: I started to have disasters. You know, in my, in my flat.I was just turning on the bath water and leaving it, but I didn’t remember it was on and used to flood the floor. And then I had terrible disasters with my cooking and nearly burnt the building down. And it was absolutely terrifying.

And I, I thought, this isn’t normal loss of memory. This is quite serious loss of memory. So I just sort of realised then that I think I probably might have Alzheimer’s.

When I said, “Oh, I’m forgetting things”, all sorts of little things as well, they said, “Oh, don’t be silly, we all do that, I do it”. And they wouldn’t sort of, they dismissed it. So I said, “well I’m going to-” Am I alright to tell you all this?

Interviewer: Yes, please do.

Elspeth: I said, “Well, I’m sorry I’m going to the doctor’s and I’m going to say, I’m forgetting everything”. And she said, “Well, would you like just to go and have a little test?” It’s like a little what does this remind you of and where you draw something?

And I thought that I didn’t do terribly well. So she said, “Well, you have this score”, she said, which is…

…she said it’s you know, she didn’t like to say it was awful, but she said, “would you like, we could offer you a scan?” I said “Oh yes please.” You see? Giving me a scan. Because I have to know.

What was my reaction to getting the news? Well it was just almost relief. because there’s a reason for my behaviour. And I never once sort of had a fit about it, you know? Thought “oh my God”. I thought, well, it is what it is.

Children were all doing their own thing, and I was retired. And I was an auxilary nurse
at the children’s hospital, but I had to retire when I was 60 in those days, and I thought, “Well, my God, what am I going to do now?”

So I just ended up browsing around Brighton’s shops, going home, having lunch, looking at the TV in the evening, and nothing really exciting at all. I didn’t mind living alone, I was quite smug about it really. You say, “Oh, it’s lovely living alone.” I can do whatever I like, you know, if I want to watch something on TV there’s nobody to argue with. And I was making the most of it really.

But then I discovered this, it’s been such a nice surprise. I’ve never been happier. Isn’t it ridiculous? I’m having such a lovely time. I’m going to all of the lovely groups. Singing. Cookery, and then all sit down and eat what you’ve cooked.

We went to this beautiful walled garden, 100 year-old walled garden with apple and pear trees, and we sat out on the lawn and we planted seedlings and put them in the greenhouse, and we picked some lavender and then they showed us how to make lavender bags.

Then afternoon tea on the lawn, all run by wonderful volunteer ladies. And it’s all, I could… How could everybody be so kind and loving to us all? And they said “oh we love all! Thank you for coming.” You know, it was unbelievable, it was like going to heaven.

You know, you wouldn’t believe how kind people are. And I’m really, really grateful for that
because we feel that people walk by and they’re busy, but they’re not all like that are they? I think she’s called Louisa. Do you know a Louisa?

Interviewer: Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Elspeth: Well, she’s seen me right through from the start. She’s given me all the information and she’s been to all the meetings. No, and I’m really, really happy. It has been one of the nicest times of my life, you know, with all the struggle and stuff I’ve had. I’m not a sort of miserable person.

And I see lovely… I’m just more aware of nature. I’ve just bought a pound bunch of daffodils and they’ve all opened out in my lounge. And I just think, well, I can’t think of anything more beautiful. to just come in and see in the morning when you wake up. Simple things, that really…

I said to Penelope the other day, “this must just be like when you’ve taken LSD.” She said “Oh, my God, I hope you don’t really know what that’s like.” She nearly collapsed when I said that! Everything seems so lovely to me now.

Everything is there, but you do have to know just to join the club first. You see? If you get what I mean? Some will just go off and say “no I don’t want to do that” or “I don’t want to go there” and it’s such a sad shame if they don’t try it isn’t it?

Interviewer: And it wasn’t like that before?

Elspeth: No!

Interviewer: And what do you think made that difference?

Elspeth: Well just me appreciating life. Because I know I’m not going to have it for much longer anyway at my age and I just want to cherish every day.


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