When 39-year-old mother of two, Sarah Park, realised she was repeating herself at a barbecue with friends, she put it down to the prosecco she had been drinking.
But as time went on, she began to come to the realisation that there was something more to her occasional mistakes.
She mixed up her children’s clothing, and put cups away in the wrong cupboard, and eventually she made an uncharacteristic mistake in her professional life.
The senior cardiac physiologist, whose father had died from Alzheimer’s at the age of 40, eventually began to come to the life-changing realisation that she possibly had dementia.
The long road to diagnosis
But the road to diagnosis was not easy.
With Ms Park’s medical career and young age, doctors initially put her symptoms down to stress and depression.
Initial scans and a cognitive test also failed to provide an answer to the symptoms Ms Park was experiencing.
Eventually, with the couple both dissatisfied with the diagnoses Ms Park had been given, they turns to the Cerebral Function Unit in Manchester. Within a few weeks, they were told that Ms Park had Alzheimer’s.
Ms Park told the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society the diagnosis was a “kick in the teeth”, but she also felt a sense a relief.
“We finally knew what was going on,” she said.
Image: justgiving.com, Sarah’s Memory Walk
Challenging the stereotypes of living with dementia
Since the diagnosis, the family has been adjusting to a new chapter in their lives.
“We’re not the type of people who will sit around feeling sorry for ourselves and we don’t want anyone else to do that,” Ms Park said.
Ms Park is taking on the challenges that dementia sends her way.
She aims to end to the uncertainty that many young people face when they are looking for a diagnosis, and to help raise awareness about dementia and the rights of people with dementia.
Ms Park maintains a busy life. She gardens, takes a spin class twice a week, helps out at her son’s cricket club, volunteers at the local hospice, and walks dogs for friends and family.
“I’m enjoying life on a day-by-day basis,” she said.
“I don’t see my dementia diagnosis as the end of the world. I was devastated to start with, but I’ve kind of got over that now. There’s plenty more left of me yet. I’m 39 years young,” she said.
What is younger onset dementia?
Younger onset dementia is dementia that has been diagnosed in a person who is under the age of 65.
According to Dementia Australia, it affects 25,938 people in Australia, with some diagnosed as young as in their 30s, as in Ms Park’s case.
Because it is uncommon among younger people, there are often difficulties in diagnosing younger onset dementia.