South East Wales

Dementia Awareness Week: Diagnosed with Alzheimer's aged 51

Karen Kitch, from Llanharan, Rhondda Cynon Taff, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease two years ago at the age of 51.

As the Alzheimer's Society brings attention to the condition with Dementia Awareness Week, the former pharmacy dispenser tells her story to BBC Wales.

Years ago I used to wear stilettos all the time, but I can't any more because I can't balance.

I used to go out with the girls and I used to have a good night. We would go nightclubbing, we would get drunk.

I go out now and I only have one or two drinks because I'm on so much medication I'm not very well the next day.

I suppose there's a lot of life-changing things.

I was 51 when he [the doctor] said it was Alzheimer's. I was like, "woah". It was really tough, it was "take a deep breath, it can't possibly be happening".

My daughter was 15. She took it very badly. She wouldn't talk to anyone.

Amy, 17, on her mother's diagnosis:

Image copyright Revolve studios

I knew that from then on she was going to change, I'll never have the same mother again. I was just really upset, as well, for her. It's not fair on her.

I'm proud to say that I'm a carer for my mum but at the time it was hard, very hard.

We used to go out a lot and spend days shopping and things. Obviously we can't do that a lot now because her balance is a bit off.

I'm scared she's not going to be there when I get married or if I graduate or, if she's there, that she won't remember it.

I forget certain words. I forget, sometimes, people's names and sometimes I call them names from the past.

A lot of people that I suppose you call acquaintances, I don't hear from them any more. They just sort of disappeared, I don't know why.

I stumble... I've lost a lot of my balance. I use a crutch for when I'm out walking. It's not because I need a walking stick, it's just to give me extra balance.

We had a breeze block shower cubicle [in the bathroom] and it had quite a step, about a 12in (0.3m) step to get into it.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionKaren Kitch describes her disbelief at being diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 51

I was falling over all the time, so I couldn't have a bath unless Jason [my husband] was in the house, and the shower - I would trip over and fall over there, so my social worker then came in and had a look and they put this wet room in for me.

When I saw the doctor that gave me the diagnosis, he told me I had to stop work, I couldn't work any more.

It was horrible because everyone else was going out to work and I'm sat here. It got to the stage where sometimes I didn't even get out of bed all day.

In the early days I wouldn't get out of bed. What was the point? I didn't see any point. It took me a while.

I was struggling to climb the stairs, sometimes I would be crawling up the stairs or, failing that, Jason would pull the bed settee out and I would be sleeping downstairs.

When they came in to do my bathroom, my social worker organised for me to have the stair lift in so now it's a little bit more independence.

It's taken me a little while but I've adapted, I think. Not changed but adapted.

I don't look at the future any more. I live more for the day now because if people say to me "what are you going to do in 12 months time?", I don't know.

I could be exactly the same as I am now or I could be somewhere else. I don't know, so I would rather not look into the future.

Related Topics

More on this story