" I’m a big believer in being open and talking about what I’m experiencing. "
Communication is key

When Phil Hazell was diagnosed with younger onset dementia, he found that telling his friends, family and colleagues led to a world of support.

“My wife, Jan, was the first to notice I was forgetting things. It was small things at first, but when my memory lapses started to impact on my work I knew something was seriously wrong with me. That is when I decided to see a specialist.

It took two months of brain scans and cognitive tests before I was told I had Alzheimer’s disease. When I received the diagnosis I was angry, but not surprised. I had considered all the different possibilities, so in some ways I had already prepared myself for this news.

I’m a big believer in being open and talking about what I’m experiencing. Being completely honest with Jan has enabled her to support me. I often wonder how I would have coped without her! She’s helped so much by positively reinforcing the things I can do, and has taught me not to worry about the things I can’t change.

My friends have all been fantastic, too. After I told them about my diagnosis they couldn’t do enough to help. I’ve always been into jet boating and, thanks to their support, I’ve managed to continue doing this activity.

When I told my colleagues they immediately sprang into action to put strategies in place to help me to continue working. My employers engaged an assistant for me, and there was constant communication regarding my needs and changing abilities.

I would advise anybody who finds themselves in this position not to try and hide their diagnosis, but to be upfront with people and tell them what is happening. In doing so, I’ve been overwhelmed by the level of people’s kindness, understanding and support.

Since my diagnosis, I have been responsible for training Sara, my assistance Labrador. It’s been a big commitment, but was all worthwhile when she became the youngest dog ever to pass at just 14 months old. She is such a great support. She’ll find my keys, wallet or phone if I’ve lost them. And she keeps me calm if I get lost!

Now that I’m planning to retire, I’ve signed up to become a Dementia Advocate. My first commitment was voicing a series of radio advertisements to promote the National Dementia Helpline, which I really enjoyed. During my career I did lots of public speaking, so in this new role I’d like to start sharing my experiences at lectures and conferences. It would be wonderful to think after all the support I’ve received that I might be able to use my experiences to support others.”

Become an advocate! Dementia Advocates give a voice to people living with dementia and their carers. If you would like to be a Dementia Advocate, contact Jo-Ann Brown on (02) 8873 4636 or Jo-Ann.brown@alzheimers.org.au, or visit the Alzheimer’s Australia website.

 

 Posted: April 4th, 2017
Discussion

Debbie Osiecki said:

I had a test done ✅ in a hospital done by a Physio or Ot I can’t remember now it was done in May 2017 and I’ve been told to been retest My score in hospital was something like 16-30 I’m not sure about it as not much was said as I had bad test results come back for different things I was in hospital for

Debbie Osiecki said:

Younger persons dementia

Kate Lambert, CEO Daughterly Care said:

I love that Phil was upfront his employer and that they worked on ways to keep using his skills. I also love how accepting and helpful his family are. being upfront is a great strategy because family, friends and colleagues are given the opportunity to support Phil.

Judy said:

It is a joy to hear Phil explaining how important it has been to be open and upfront about his diagnosis. I encourage more people to speak up and be open about this disease, wjphether you are a carer or have received the diagnosis for yourself.

Dorothy-Anne said:

What a fantastic man and I am in love with his dog

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