Debilitating illness comes decades early for Doncaster woman

Wendy Sharps, pictured with her daughter Shauna and her husband Paul.
Wendy Sharps, pictured with her daughter Shauna and her husband Paul.
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The majority of Alzheimer’s cases occur in people aged 65 years or older - but for some the debilitating disease can strike much sooner.

Wendy Sharps started experiencing the symptoms of dementia when she was just 35, but it took her five years to receive a diagnosis.

Wendy, from Conisbrough, now aged 47, said: “I knew something was wrong, I was about 35 when I started to have problems but every time I went to the doctor the GP kept saying it was stress or depression.

“I thought I was going nuts, people I’d known for years would be speaking to me in the street and I didn’t have a clue who they were.”

Eventually Wendy received her diagnosis and was referred to Doncaster’s Young Onset Dementia Service in Balby.

“I couldn’t believe it - I had worked in an old folk’s home for years, so I’d worked with a lot of people who had dementia and I just thought, like a lot of people, that it was something old people got.”

Dementia sufferer Wendy Sharps, 45,  of Conisbrough. Picture: Marie Caley D1088MC

Dementia sufferer Wendy Sharps, 45, of Conisbrough. Picture: Marie Caley D1088MC

Research indicates Alzheimer’s and dementia are among the most feared diseases associated with getting older, greater than the fear of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

But for Wendy, coming to terms with being diagnosed at such a young age was a bitter pill to swallow.

Since her diagnosis the mum-of-two has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of young-onset dementia and now volunteers as an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Champion.

She said: “I take each day as it comes, there’s no point sitting inside by yourself, moping about. It gets you quicker that way.

“You’ve got to keep active and keep positive.”

Wendy added: “The hardest thing for me is I’m very independent and I don’t want to lose that, I still want to be me. I would say to anybody going through dementia, ask for help, it makes everyday tasks so much easier, it’s not about having someone there to do everything for you but just having someone on hand just in case.”