Former dentist Richard Vivian was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017, several years after his family first became aware of his symptoms.

He and wife Tina had met in London where he was a dentist and Tina a nurse. They moved to Bradford on Avon more than 30 years ago when a dental practice became available in Widcombe.

“There were tiny pointers over the years,” says Tina. “For seven years Richard had high cholesterol and eventually he was put onto statins. He’d had an MRI, CT scan and done a mini mental test which showed nothing.

“Richard used to be very good at DIY, but in 2010 he tried to put up cupboards and just couldn’t work it out. There was a lot of stress when he was running down the practice before handing it over to our son. He wasn’t really on the ball and a lot of things took him ages to do and I wondered why is he like this?

"When went out to a wedding in Australia I got so cross with him on the plane because he couldn’t remember things. Within five minutes of meeting him our friends asked ‘what’s wrong with Richard?’. They hadn’t seen him in five years and could immediately see the difference in him.

"At his 60th birthday party in 2011 he wasn’t his usual gregarious self. On Christmas Eve 2013 when we had the floods in Bradford on Avon he went to Trowbridge on his scooter to collect our son and could remember nothing of it the next day, but said he’d had awful dreams during the night."

Getting diagnosed

By 2015 the family was getting worried and Richard’s son thought the symptoms might be due to his being depressed, so Richard was put onto Amitriptyline which they didn’t feel helped. Richard went back to the mental health team he had been under and after a number of tests he was diagnosed with dementia and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m furious that it took so long,” said Tina. “Richard should have gone onto Aricept much sooner. The whole family was concerned about him, but the doctors weren’t listening. The patterns he was showing weren’t typical, but Richard is a very intelligent man and was using that intelligence to hide his symptoms and fob people off.”

Since his diagnosis Tina has spent a lot of time researching a variety of treatments including a keto diet which is based around good fats such as avocado and oily fish, very little meat and no dairy.

Getting support

Richard’s initial involvement with Alzheimer’s Support came through attendance at the Mill Street Day Club where he goes twice a week. The club accommodates Richard’s new dietary requirements by cooking keto-based recipes, which the cook also prepares for herself so he does not feel left out.

After another holiday, Tina felt she needed more support and contacted the charity to enquire about a support worker. “We were a bit apprehensive to begin with as we thought we would get some old person, but Layla is a bright spark in our lives,” says Tina.

“She’s really off the wall and very enthusiastic. She comes in and kisses our dog, Ruby, and she’s just like family. I feel close to her and we have a good relationship.”

Layla has made an effort to find out Richard’s likes and dislikes to ensure he gets the most out of their days out. Richard’s father was a gunner in a Lancaster bomber during the Second World War, so Layla took him to Aerospace Bristol to see the bomber there, an experience that they both found emotional. And as Richard used to be a keen deep sea diver she also takes him swimming. During one session he found a locker key at the bottom of the pool which another swimmer had lost. Layla also plays him Queen in the car, one of his favourite bands.

“With his illness Richard can say inappropriate things, but Layla thinks it’s funny,” says Tina. “Richard really enjoys his outings with Layla and it’s a mood booster for both of us, we all get on really well.”