Living with early onset Alzheimer's disease
Keith Oliver lives near to Canterbury with his wife Rosemary.
Keith’s world changed when he was diagnosed with early onset dementia, also known as Alzheimer’s at the age of 55.
He has enjoyed a 33 year career in teaching with his final teaching post as head teacher of Blean primary school.
Keith says that if you had asked him twelve months ago what thoughts came to mind when dementia or Alzheimer’s disease were mentioned, he would have described an elderly person being cared for in their own home or nursing home. He was not aware that dementia could affect people in their early 50s (or younger) until he was diagnosed. Because of this, Keith is now determined to contribute towards raising public awareness and dispel some of the myths around this disease.
Keith now has a very positive attitude towards to his disease, an attitude he says he’s always had towards life, and something that helps him deal with it day to day. He is actively involved in helping others to cope with early onset dementia and works to promote recognition of the symptoms.
He has also been actively working as a dementia envoy for the Trust and has carried out some exceptional work. In 2014, alongside seven other writers and with the help of University students and the Alzheimers Society, he published 'Welcome to our world'.
Keith said: “I am so proud of the people involved – we have a carpenter, a policeman, a lifeboat man and people from other professions. Some have never written stories before in their lives. We’re showing what we can do in spite of our diagnosis and, with the students’ involvement, it’s a true inter-generational project.
“There are other books out there which challenge the stereotypes about dementia but they are written by exceptional individuals writing a whole book. What we think is unique about this project is that it’s the first time a group like ours has got together to write.”
Another writer Chris Norris added: “By publishing the book we can get the message across that dementia is not ‘the end of the world’.”