Dementia not only took a Hamilton woman's husband - it also took many of her friends who did not know how to deal with it.
Trish Thorne's husband, Syd, died in 2010, five years after he first started showing signs of degenerative dementia at 60.
It was a real challenge for Mrs Thorne, who had to maintain fulltime work while looking after her husband.
Their children were not nearby and most friends stayed at a distance, not knowing how to deal with the situation.
On the day Mrs Thorne left her husband in fulltime care in 2008, just one friend came to visit.
"It was the funniest thing. No-one else offered to spend any time with me."
She said it was fear that kept people away.
"I think, like with any mental health issue, it needs to be discussed. This is a disease and it's a disease that will kill you."
If not for the support of Alz heimers Waikato, she does not know what she would have done.
"It was absolutely invaluable."
Today marks the start of the organisation's annual appeal and Mrs Thorne urged people to give generously.
When she needed help Alzheimers Waikato was there, despite going through its own financial difficulties at the time and struggling to keep operating.
"[Manager] Jane [Kay] went unpaid - that's how important the service is and she knows it.
"It's that lifeline - when you're absolutely depressed and don't know what to do, to know there's someone you can call makes a difference."
The organisation also put her in touch with other families living with dementia.
As well as support, Alz heimers Waikato also advocates and pro vides education for people with dementia and their families.
Currently, about 4000 people have dementia in the Waikato, but the number is expected to rise to 6000 by 2021.
Mrs Thorne said it was for that reason that awareness of the illness needed to increase and people needed to be prepared to hear about it.
"Having the disease doesn't make you any less human."
To donate, visit alzheimers.org.nz/alzheimers-waikato, or phone (07) 929 4024.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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