“Is this going to help anyone?”
This is what Elma O’Rourke, 90, asked us when we sat down to interview her about what it is like to have dementia.
We had asked her to share her experiences of living with the disease as part of a Press and Journal investigation, which aims to reveal the true cost of dementia.
The Press and Journal also created a comic strip for children to help them understand how dementia can affect their loved ones.
Elma told us she loved the idea and it would be helpful for her grandchildren.
We travelled to Elma’s home in Strathpeffer in the Highlands.
The mother-of-three moved to the village from Wales in 1972 with her partner.
Since then, Elma has become a caring member of the community. She worked as a pastry chef, and went on to work in the local Highland Hotel.
Elma was diagnosed 12 years ago and ever since then she has relied on the support of her family, including her daughter Melanie Brennan, 59, a retired nurse who lives close by.
The cost of dementia
The day before our interview, Elma celebrated her 90th birthday.
When we visited her at home, she exuded warmth and vitality, mirroring her optimistic attitude despite her dementia.
Elma focused on her abilities rather than limitations, saying: “Sometimes you can’t remember somebody’s name and you’ve known them for donkeys.
“It doesn’t disable you.”
As part of our investigation our data team discovered deaths linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s have almost quadrupled since 2002 in the Highlands.
Anyone affected by the issues raised in this article or in need of assistance can find help in the links below: