Jane’s story: “I know it’s going to get worse”

Jane Emmings, a Document Operator in Herbert Smith Freehills’ London Evening DP department, saw her life turned upside down when her husband Ray was diagnosed with vascular dementia on Friday 13 May 2016.

A former Post Office worker who put in over 20 years working night shifts in the London sorting office, Ray took early retirement in 2009 with plans to enjoy his later years to the full. But that dream was snatched away from him in 2014 when he had a major stroke, at the age of just 59. The stroke left him with dysphasia – difficulty with language and communication – which meant he was no longer able to form sentences fluently.

It wasn’t until two years later, after Ray was referred to a memory clinic by his GP, that the couple discovered his symptoms were also a result of vascular dementia – a type of dementia caused by reductions in blood flow to the brain. People with vascular dementia can experience symptoms similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s disease, including problems with thinking and memory, and personality changes.

Jane explained:
“I cried and cried at the news – I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s disease, so I already knew how devastating dementia can be and I knew what it meant for the future.

“Although initially I hadn’t noticed a lot of difference in Ray since he first had the stroke, there have been some gradual changes. Sometimes he can be aggressive, which is not at all like him, as he has always been such a kind and gentle man.

“Ray has always been very good with his hands and loves DIY and working on the garden - that’s his joy. He has always loved driving, having learned to drive later in life, and it’s been very difficult for him not to be able to be behind the wheel of a car anymore.

“At the moment, the dementia shows itself in little things, for example, when we were on holiday in Spain to celebrate the New Year, Ray withdrew €500 instead of €50. I know he’s frustrated at not being able to do things, and although it can be worrying at times, I’ve had to learn to let go and allow him to be as independent as possible. But I know it’s going to get worse.

“When we were first married I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Ray was the best husband I could have asked for. Through all the chemotherapy and treatment, he was there by my side. He’s taken me through some pretty rough times – now it’s my turn to be there for him.

“I would give anything for there to be a treatment that could help Ray. Research has made such progress for cancer and now we need the same for dementia. I’m delighted that Herbert Smith Freehills have chosen to support Alzheimer’s Research UK, because dementia is the big issue now, and it’s research that’s necessary to beat it.”

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