Paul Lea lives in Toronto, ON and was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2009. He has since become a dementia advocate, spreading awareness on the issues facing people living with the condition. Every morning, he says "thank you" for being alive. It's his way of keeping things in perspective. 


When someone thinks of a stroke, they usually think of facial paralysis or sudden trouble seeing. I didn't have those symptoms, so when I was told that I had a form of dementia — known as vascular dementia — caused by a stroke, I was taken aback. Though I had this diagnosis hanging over me, I didn't feel that I was sick and in need of help. For one thing, I knew that I could live independently and wanted to prove that to people.

Part of my quest for demonstrating great independence came via home renovations. The apartment that I had moved into was showing its years and then some — peeling walls and ceilings, a decaying kitchen, and a broken medicine cabinet, among other issues. So, I decided to fix it all up on my own. I used to be a handyman, after all!

So, what have I learned as someone living well with dementia? Firstly, if you suspect something — anything — go to a doctor right away.

Fixing everything up made me feel good — it was something that I did by myself and it ended up looking pretty nice! The side benefit was that the project challenged my brain.

I play games such as word search and solitaire and try to whip through them quickly to give my brain more of a workout. I always find a way to challenge myself and I'm told by medical professionals that I've compensated well for the deficits that vascular dementia brings because I've worked my brain.

So, what have I learned as someone living well with dementia? Firstly, if you suspect something — anything — go to a doctor right away. And don't be afraid to get another opinion. Secondly, don't hesitate to get your friends and family involved. They will support you — and may notice things that you don't notice yourself. Finally, remember that there's always a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's up to you how big or small you make it.

Give your brain a workout, whether you're living with dementia or want to reduce your risk.

 

Visit Alzheimer Society Canada for information about dementia and brain health, or read more personal stories like Paul's at I Live With Dementia.