From depression to a dementia diagnosis: How Patrick’s life has turned around in the most positive way
At 66, Patrick Couper was quite young to have a diagnosis of Dementia.
The strong, hardworking man lost his job in April 2021, and shortly after, in September, had two knee replacements.
Soon after, his wife Deb noticed more significant changes. Patrick became depressed and anxious, and his memory began to lapse. Deb had taken him to the doctor a few times, but the doctor insisted he was just depressed in the wake of losing his job.
By August 2022, Deb was noticing Patrick’s lows more frequently. He would be sad listening to music, ads on the TV, watching children playing, or looking through videos and photos of their grandkids.
One day, the couple were at a service station and Patrick saw a young man around the age of twenty-five, who he believed was a mate, the same age as himself. That was a sign for Deb to take him back to the Doctor, who referred him to a geriatrician; Patrick was told he had Frontotemporal Dementia BV (Behaviour Variant).
The diagnosis has had a huge impact on Patrick, and the family. The changes happened very fast; on top of having lost his job, Patrick also lost his car licence and became dependent on Deb to drive him everywhere. It seemed that everything has been taken away from him.
Patrick and Deb have three sons and five grandchildren, all impacted by the changes in Patrick – who went from being a stoic and strong man, compromised to the extent he couldn’t remember his mates’ names, or names of familiar things.
Michelle Jewell from Aspire4Life visited the pair in December 2022 for an assessment and a chance to get to know them. She discovered that Deb had been wanting Patrick to go to the Men’s Shed for quite some time, and left suggestions of encouraging him to do so.
Patrick started to attend several times per week from January 2023. He really enjoyed it, despite his forgetfulness influencing ability to participate and socialise; after all, The Men’s Shed movement has become one of the most powerful tools in addressing health and wellbeing, helping men to become valued & productive members of the community through everything from personal projects to simple cups of tea.
More recently, Patrick’s daily routine involves getting up at 7 am to make Deb breakfast. He then goes for a walk up the street, sometimes doing odd jobs around the house. He enjoys coming out with Deb in the weekend for coffee and shopping.
One of their sons also got a photo book made for him. The same week, old mates from the New Zealand fire brigade rang him. He was so excited to see his ten mates, even if he couldn’t quite put names to all the faces.
Patrick has since also had an ACAT assessment and may have speech therapy.
As Patrick prepares to move on to a new phase of life, his story shows that there are relatable, down to earth, and positive services and groups that can lift people, men included, from lows and isolation. That, and the support of family, particularly a strong and devoted wife, can ensure that companionship and dignity are never fully overcome.