A mum-of-five has described how she thought her "life was over" after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at just 43-years-old.
Shelley Sheppard was told in November 2017, she had early onset Alzheimer's disease which leads to dementia.
"It was the most shocking and devastating news I had ever received. I did not expect it and it has never ran in my family historically. I thought my life was over," she said.
The mum and grandma, now 45, struggles with her speech, memory loss, concentration, understanding and is "quite clumsy", often tripping over or forgetting where she is or where she was going.
"I didn't feel like I could be a role model for my kids anymore. I was the head of the family, the mum of five girls and also have grandchildren," she added.
Coming to terms with her diagnosis at such a young age was the hardest thing to deal with for Mrs Sheppard.
But, once she had, she refused to let the condition hold her back in life.
The stay-at-home-mum from Ollerton, Notts, is helped by Nottinghamshire Healthcare's Working Age Dementia Service, which supports people under 65 who have a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of dementia.
She said: "Soon after diagnosis I was invited to attend a memory strategy group that would run for seven weeks. As a group we shared a lot of laughter and tears.
"We all had a mutual understanding of each other and how we were learning how to live our new lives.
"When the group came to an end, I'd got a new life to live, thanks to the strategies and most importantly new friends and a better understanding of my dementia.
"With the continued support of the team and regular visits, just having the reassurance that they were there for anything, I started to notice a change in me.
"My moods were getting brighter and I no longer felt so detached from life – I had hope.
"At the first home visit everything was explained to me and my family and what the Working Age Dementia Service would be able to do for us. Straight away there was a friendly face giving us words of advice, encouragement and most of all reassurance.
"A care plan was made whilst practical support was offered. Having someone there so soon after diagnosis was so invaluable. I knew we were no longer alone.
"My family are my biggest support. If my husband Paul forgets something we laugh and say that's not his job, that's mine. We laugh through the problems."
● Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia (after Alzheimer’s), affecting around 150,000 people in the UK.
● Symptoms can include memory loss and difficulties thinking, problem-solving or with language.
● 5.2% of under-65s in the UK have dementia – that’s over 42,000.
● Some people have both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – this is called mixed dementia.
● Dementia affects about 10% of those aged over 65, with 20% of those over 80 years suffering from severe dementia.
Nottinghamshire Healthcare has celebrated ten years of its Working Age Dementia Service.
The specialist service was set up in April 2009 in recognition of the complex needs of people with working age dementia.
The service offers a specialist diagnostic service to people under 65 who are experiencing problems with their memory and thinking skills – where dementia is suspected as a possible cause.
Following a diagnosis, the treatment service aims to help people to manage changing needs associated with the disease and maintain their independence.
To mark the service's anniversary, a celebration event was held at Highbury Hospital in Nottingham, where people could also find out more about the service and the support it offers.
Tracey Evans, Working Age Dementia Service Lead, added: "We're so proud to be celebrating our ten year anniversary. Our service provides vital support to help people to remain active and well in the community.
"We empower both individuals and their families to live well with dementia and to play an active role in the management of their care and needs.
"The event has provided a chance to celebrate the support we provide, highlight our achievements and to raise awareness of working age dementia."
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