TOUGH LOVE: Janelle Petrie and husband Mick, who was diagnosed with Younger Onset Dementia at just 53.
TOUGH LOVE: Janelle Petrie and husband Mick, who was diagnosed with Younger Onset Dementia at just 53. Contributed.

A saving grace for those with Younger Onset Dementia

A TOOWOOMBA support group for people living with Younger Onset Dementia (YOD) is convinced there are more people out there who need its services - whether they know it or not.

YOD generally strikes from 45-65 years of age.

However, YOD key worker Christine Fox said it was often misdiagnosed as stress or depression, or the symptoms denied or ignored. The problem is dementia is degenerative and the symptoms worsen.

"At 45-55, you could reasonably expect to be working, maybe have a mortgage, children at school, to be married or in a relationship," Christine said.

"A diagnosis means there is so much to negotiate - how do I keep working? When I'm not able to work, where will I get money?

"How does it affect the children or partner taking on my care? What happened to our years of happy retirement together?"

That's where the YOD support group can help. But there are currently only seven clients.

Christine said that was well below the number of people living with the condition, with at least 25,000 people affected throughout Australia.

"We know there are people out there in Toowoomba who have it, but they aren't accessing our help," she said.

Janelle Petrie is one of the support group's members. She first started noticing differences in her husband Mick about seven years ago.

Five years ago, at just 53, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

The diagnosis was overwhelming for the close couple and their family.

"People see Mick for a few minutes and they think he's just the same. The changes aren't obvious yet, but it's as if an alien has taken over his body - all the changes are on the inside. I see them every day."

Those changes include temperament, memory, things he no longer notices and things he cannot do as well as previously.

It's not easy, especially when Janelle, 64, is already caring in-house for her Down Syndrome sister Glenys, who also has dementia.,

Her saving grace, she says is her floral art - her time.

And being a member of the support group is comforting.

"It lets you see you're not alone and that other people are coping with the same things you are," Janelle said.

Feeling forgetful or confused?

Phone the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

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