Meet Ian Gladstone, our newest board member. We welcome him, and share his personal story with our readers today.
Ian Gladstone’s encounter with Younger Onset Dementia.
On reflection of my life thirteen years ago when I was a single male aged in my mid fifties, enjoying my life upon returning to South Australia, after ten years away working in senior management on the east coast of Australia, I was relaxing with a quieter lifestyle and had undertaken a management role in retail sales.
I had only been carrying out that role for a brief time when I suddenly had a major neurological event similar in many ways to a stroke. About three months later I had recovered from this illness with very few residual problems.
As a result of this, my neurologist decided to continue testing my neurological function by MRI’s and Neuro/psychological testing. I found the psych testing to be very demeaning but perservered because I thought I was ten feet tall and bullet proof after having been a police officer for 16 years in my younger days.
All changed at the age of 58 when the neurologist informed me that I had been diagnosed with Semantic dementia, otherwise known as the semantic variant of Primary Progressive Aphasia (svPPA).
AT THIS POINT, MY LIFE SUDDENLY CHANGED.
I was made aware that I had a disease that was not curable and should it reach its final conclusion, I would no longer have the ability to speak or understand the written word.
It was then that I realised my life would need to change and I had to make a few decisions so I could handle my NEW LIFE. I decided it was far better for me to COPE than MOPE and I just got on with it. I always was a confident and outgoing person and I couldn’t wait to learn more about this insidious disease, so I took myself off to Alzheimer’s S.A (now Dementia Australia) along with my sister Anne, who chose to be my care partner. I undertook a number of training sessions and became involved in various activities which involved meeting other persons with Younger Onset Dementia.
This was a turning point in my world of dementia where I could advocate on behalf of these fellow humans who had the same disease but I was still in better shape and capable of ‘lending a hand’. I think It was late into my first year with Alzheimer’s S.A. that I was introduced to this ‘whirlwind’ named Kate Swaffer who was regarded in my town as being the guru on dementia and an advocate nationwide for better lives for people with dementia.
Kate and I hit it off and soon discovered that we both had the same Neurologist and had a similar diagnosis. That meeting with Kate also gave me encouragement to take my message about ‘living well with dementia’ out into the community. My speaking career had hardly any impact until one day Kate asked me if I would mind taking on one of her speaking engagements as she had ‘doubled up’.
That was where my life took another turn and opened up the national and international world of dementia and I relied on Kate’s knowledge, wisdom and guidance to allow me to progress to where I am today. As I lunge forward into my seventieth year with still the same focus and enthusiasm to spread the message that dementia doesn’t have to be such a sad experience.
Humour is so important to me and has helped me handle my dementia and it never fails.
I try to bring a smile to the faces of friends with dementia, albeit some of my humour is woefully average.
I have been many places and met many folk with dementia and their care partners. Sadly, I have also been to many funerals to celebrate the lives of my dementia friends who didn’t make it, but who left great memories of their brave struggle with this rapidly increasing disease of the modern world.
My intention is to continue to support those who are in genuine need and deserve encouragement to live a good life, despite their dementia.
IF YOU FIND SOMEONE WITHOUT A SMILE ON THEIR FACE…….GIVE THEM ONE OF YOURS.
By Ian Gladstone, copyright 2018
Thank you Ian for sharing your story. Read Ian’s bio listed with all of our board members, if you interested to learn more about Ian’s career and life.