‘I have dementia, but I’m still here, I’m still me’

Chris Higgins is in the early stages of dementia after receiving a diagnosis in lockdown when his wife noticed a change in his behaviour.

The 62-year-old, who lives in north Belfast, is familiar with the disease as his father had Alzheimer's.

"My father was quite young when he was diagnosed and if you're someone who has no experience of dementia at all, a diagnosis like that could really floor you," he told BBC News NI.

"I remember there were times my father would forget who I was, he would know me but then as soon as I was out of sight and then I would come back, it was gone."

He added: "I think it's a taboo subject and there is the stereotype of people with dementia being invisible and at the end of life.

"They don't think about all the years before and there hasn't been enough education out there for people to get an insight into what it's really like."

Dementia is a progressive, degenerative brain syndrome which affects memory, behaviour and emotion.

Over the pandemic, Chris has been attending Zoom classes and meetings organised by people who have a similar diagnosis.

They have been facilitated by Dementia NI.

Its chief executive, Claire Watson, said: "There is a perception that people with dementia - that people can't learn new skills or use digital technology.

"Our members have shown that it's simply not true."

The Alzheimer's Society says there are currently about 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.

Video journalist: Niall McCracken