Jacqui Bingham had been working full-time as a funeral director for 12 years until diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018 aged 65 changed her life immeasurably.
Coming to terms with her new life has proved a struggle but counselling has helped.
Forced to stop work suddenly and to give up driving, Jacqui says she found herself frightened and confused leading to depression.
“Not knowing what the future would bring with a degenerative brain disease was scary,” she said. “Although I had read many books on Alzheimer’s disease, I needed more.”
“I felt I needed a professional to talk to about my feelings of fear, anger and disappointment.”
Affecting an estimated 850,000 people aged 65 and over in the UK, prevalence of dementia is expected to continue to rise with our ageing population.
There are also more than 40,000 people with ‘young dementia’ diagnosed before the age of 65.
Jacqui’s experience of dementia services was that they didn’t include psychological support, so she contacted a therapist who she had worked with several years before and who she trusted.
“I started to value myself and believe that I could live well with dementia,” she said. “As we peeled back the fears and anxieties, I gave myself kindness and belief that I still had a life to live.
“My counsellor values and empowers me and I trust her with every feeling, memory and thought.
“We worked on the fears, anxieties and triggers and she taught me strategies to manage.”
From feeling that her life had suddenly ended, Jacqui’s work with her counsellor rekindled her interest in art and she also joined the Dementia Diaries advocacy group of people living with dementia and using their experiences and voices to change attitudes, understanding and responses to dementia.
Jacqui is concerned that talking therapy isn’t always offered or discussed with people with dementia and hopes that by telling her story, other people are encouraged to find out more about how counselling can help.
“I encourage you to go for counselling and find the person underneath the fears, anxieties and memories and let go and move forward to be the person you are meant to be,” she said.
Read BACP’s briefing on counselling for people with dementia.
Hear more real-life accounts of people living with dementia by visiting Dementia Diaries.
And you can find a BACP-registered counsellor or psychotherapist near you via our register.