I grew up in Dublin and I live in the UK now. I have been a teacher all my working life and I’m currently working in a special needs school. I was diagnosed with young onset dementia just over a year ago, and at the same time was going through menopause.
I first went to the GP when I was 45 years old because I was worried about my memory. I was mixing up my words and knew something wasn’t right.
The doctor dismissed my concerns and said I most likely just had some mild memory loss. I didn’t get referred to the memory clinic or sent for any further tests. I’m not the sort of person who goes to the doctor a lot and I don’t like to feel like I’m a burden, so I didn’t push for a referral.
“I couldn’t get anyone to listen”
Three years later, I moved house and registered with a different GP. My memory had declined over that time, and I was also experiencing hot flushes and brain fog.
The doctor suspected it could be menopause and ran some blood tests, which revealed that I had an overactive thyroid which can cause similar symptoms to menopause. I took thyroid medication for two years, but my memory didn’t improve.
My female colleagues would often talk about their menopause symptoms at work. I always felt like my symptoms were much worse, but I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me or take me seriously. I didn’t have enough knowledge about menopause to rule it out. I certainly had no idea that it could be dementia.
“I was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease”
My thyroid function returned to normal with medication, but I still knew something was wrong and nobody had addressed my memory problems.
By this stage, it was taking me much longer to do my work, and I made the decision to go part-time. The school children were finishing my sentences. I just couldn’t do my job anymore and I didn’t know why.
In 2021 I returned to the GP once again and was finally referred to the memory clinic where I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, six and a half years after my initial GP appointment.
I found out that I was menopausal shortly after. I began having hot flushes and not sleeping on top of all the symptoms that come with Alzheimer’s disease. It seems bizarre to me that I was diagnosed with dementia before menopause. It feels backwards.
Being diagnosed with both dementia and menopause has really knocked my confidence. Now, doing everyday things like shopping or getting on the bus feel daunting. I’m now using an HRT patch which is helping with my menopausal symptoms, and I am feeling a little better every day.
“I couldn’t differentiate between dementia and menopause symptoms”
The onset of my dementia and menopause were so close together that I couldn’t differentiate between the two.
I want more people to know about the symptoms of young onset dementia as well as menopause. The symptoms can be similar which makes getting a diagnosis difficult.
An estimated 70,800 people in the UK are living with young onset dementia, where symptoms begin before the age of 65. For some women, dementia symptoms may develop at the same time as perimenopause or menopause, which can bring additional challenges
We’ve created a section of content about young onset dementia (dementia symptoms under 65) to bring together information and resources that have been created specifically for younger people, that cover the key issues that you may face