Couple prove that there is life after dementia diagnosis

Maria and Rob Shuttleworth
Maria and Rob Shuttleworth

A PONTELAND couple are determined to keep living life to the full despite having to deal with Alzheimer’s.

Although they admit there have been difficult times since Ron Shuttleworth was diagnosed four-and-a-half years ago, he and wife Maria are trying to remain as active as possible for as long as they can.

The former Ponteland High School teachers spoke out as the Department of Health launched a mass leafleting campaign – backed by the Alzheimer’s Society – across Northumberland this week to encourage people to look out for the signs of the condition.

Mrs Shuttleworth said: “We are keen to live life to the full. You have to get on with life. You just have to fight for everything you’ve got and once you’ve got it hang on to it.

“It’s not all doom and gloom. He might be extremely forgetful but why be miserable about it? Ron could have a heart-attack and not be able to go out or do anything at all. It is an illness but it is a different illness.

“We go out to lunch with friends, we go for walks in Whitley Bay and Ron can still walk down to the bowling club and play bowls in the summer, which is great because our friends are involved in the club and they say ‘send him down he’ll be all right’.

“They all know Ron’s got Alzheimer’s but his is not a bad form at the moment. So while he is like this, why shouldn’t he do as much as he can because it might get worse and then we can’t do all these things that are so pleasurable.”

She is hoping that anyone worried about memory issues will take up the issue with their GP, saying: “There is a stigma attached to it like there used to be for depression and now I find one or two people I know have got Alzheimer’s and they don’t want anyone else to know what is wrong with them, but I don’t think that’s helpful.

“Other people’s reactions to you can be quite odd because they don’t know why Ron is like he is. If they know what is wrong with you then they are more amenable and understanding.”

Mr Shuttleworth, 81, was head of science at Ponteland High and also played for Yorkshire and the RAF at rugby. Nowadays this avid sports fanatic enjoys watching his local teams in action.

He said: “During the summer I like to play bowls as much as I can, but at the moment I like to wander down the road and watch the local football and rugby teams in action at Ponteland Leisure Centre.”

For further information, contact the Alzheimer’s Society Morpeth area office on 01670 511159.