Couple's journey with dementia

21:00, Sep 13 2013
 Bernard and Ursula Cobb
MEMORIES FOREVER: Bernard and Ursula Cobb are sharing their story of the Feilding woman's early onset dementia for Alzheimer's Awareness month.

Ursula Cobb is slowly losing her mind and it frustrates her.

Three years ago, at just 59 years old, the Feilding woman was diagnosed with early onset dementia. Mrs Cobb and her husband, Bernard, are speaking about their journey with dementia for Alzheimer's Awareness month.

Her diagnosis didn't come as a shock to her husband, who had an inkling there was a problem whenever his wife forgot a lunch date or indicated the wrong way when she was driving.

"The first real thing that brought it home was was when we were both in Feilding meeting at 12pm at a cafe, but she didn't show up," Mr Cobb said. "I remembered she liked going to the library to get DVDs out so I went and saw her chatting to the lady at the counter and asked her what she was doing.

"She had no recollection that she was supposed to be meeting me."

Mr Cobb said he booked a doctor's appointment for his wife when it became obvious she was having difficulty with daily tasks.


"It first started when I couldn't get a straightforward answer to a straightforward question," he said. "And you're just like, ‘For God's sake, listen', but then you realise it isn't as simple as that."

The diagnosis hit home after Mrs Cobb was referred for tests and she realised she couldn't follow basic instructions.

"I found it very hard the things they asked me to do, I don't even remember what she asked me [now]," she said. "I was a bit teary when they asked me questions that I couldn't answer and I thought it was a bit weird because it seemed to be a bit simple."

Three years on, Mrs Cobb knows she gets lost sometimes, has a failing memory and can't keep up with regular conversation.

"There is nothing I can do about it, I just get on with it," she said. "I will just do as much as I can for as long as I can.

"But it's very frustrating sometimes. I'm frustrated because I've always done the cooking."

Mr Cobb said the hardest part for him has been coming to terms with his wife suffering a diagnosis out of her control.

"Having to repeat myself when she doesn't understand is normal now, and I have to make those allowances," he said. "She's still the same person with the same sense of humour, but the ability to understand things and remember is not there."

Alzheimer's Manawatu manager Donna Hedley said having insight into your life while suffering Alzheimer's was common.

But it was difficult to predict how long that would last.

"People live in the community for a long time with dementia, not everyone goes into care - it's about supporting people to live well," she said.

"When you see Ursula and Bernard, they had their diagnosis early and now they've got access to support and education.

"They're taking each day as it comes and they're looking at their future in a positive light, rather than shutting up shop."

A street appeal will be held September 20 and 21.

Manawatu Standard