Woman left 'anxious' and 'depressed' during two-year wait for Alzheimer's diagnosis

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A 55-year-old woman who has Alzheimer's is urging people with symptoms to get help as soon as possible after it took two years for her to be diagnosed.

Tracey Lane, from Clevedon in North Somerset, was told she had frontotemporal dementia at the age of just 51.

But she says it took two years from the initial visit to her GP to get diagnosed.

"I was getting very anxious about things," said Tracey, who is now 55. "I would drive to work and I would be very sort of 'what's the point, I may as well end my life'.

"It was crazy feeling like that and I had no reason to feel like that.

"I did bottle it up for a while because you don't find it easy to speak to people about things like that - it's very difficult to tell people how you actually feel because you don't want to be negative all the time."

When she went to her GP, her symptoms were put down to menopause and she was given hormone replacement therapy.

"Time passed and the problems continued," Tracey said. "I kept going back to my GP but I wasn't getting very far."

It was not until a new doctor asked Tracey a few simple questions, including who the prime minister was, that she was sent for further tests and a brain scan revealed she has dementia.

"It wasn’t great receiving my diagnosis but at least I could finally understand what was going on.

“For me having a diagnosis helped because I finally understood what was going on and my family could too. There’s no cure of course but I could get decent medication and it really helped with the terrible way I had been feeling.  

“If anyone is struggling like I was or worried they might have dementia, I would definitely say to go and speak to your doctor and keep going until they listen. I hate to think what would have happened if I had carried on feeling like I did. Don’t ignore it and struggle on your own.” 

Tracey and her husband Mike

Tracey's husband Mike Lane said he was in "a total panic" when he first realised what was happening.

He said: "I went into total panic, I thought - I'm gonna lose her."

But he continued: "A diagnosis isn't a life sentence. So if you're diagnosed with Alzheimers or Dementia you can live a good life.

How to spot the signs of dementia?

The Alzheimer's Society has worked to develop a new symptoms checklist as a new report found people often delay getting checked out thinking their symptoms are simply old age.

A survey of more than 1,000 people with diagnosed dementia found 24% of those in the South West waited more than two years for treatment while a further 32% waited for between one and two years.

Alzheimer’s Society area manager Lorna Robertson said: “Asking the same question over and over again is not called getting old, it’s called getting ill."

She added: “Getting a diagnosis can be daunting, but it is worth it. More than nine in 10 people with dementia told us they benefited from getting a diagnosis – it gave them crucial access to treatment, care and support, and precious time to plan for the future.

“You don’t have to face dementia alone, we’re here to support everyone affected.”

Clinical representative for dementia at the Royal College of General Practitioners Dr Jill Rasmussen said:  “It’s vital for patients, their families and GPs that conversations with the potential for a diagnosis of dementia are timely and effective.

"The new checklist developed with Alzheimer’s Society is a simple, free tool to help patients and their families clearly communicate their symptoms and concerns during an often time-pressured appointment.

"We’re asking anyone who is worried about possible dementia symptoms to use the checklist and share it with their primary care team”.