A father of two has told how he felt as if “my life had come to an end” after being diagnosed with dementia at 52.

Danny McDonald says doctors initially thought he was suffering from depression when he disclosed that he was struggling to focus at work.

However, Mr McDonald, who is now 55, says it was fortunate that his GP  referred him for a CT scan, which revealed he had vascular dementia, a common type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.

Symptoms include poor concentration and mood changes.

Mr McDonald, who lives in Clydebank with his wife Catherine, says his son and daughter, who were both in their teens at the time, have dealt with the diagnosis “really well”,  despite the challenges. He said: “The parent, child roles are reversed. They are looking after me now.”

He has had to give up his job working in homelessness services for Falkirk Council and says it was a manager who noticed his behavioural changes.

He said: “I was a night shift worker and our computer system had changed and one of my colleagues spent most of the night explaining it to me.

“By the morning I couldn’t remember each stage that was required. It was very shortly after that, that a manager took me aside and said, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you but you are not remembering the simplest of tasks’. So I went to the doctor and they did the memory task and I got a CT scan.

“I think they were quite surprised given my age but they nevertheless said they would get it checked. Initially, the diagnosis was depression, but when I got the scan, they found I had vascular dementia and had actually suffered a silent stroke, which is related to the dementia. Since then I’ve had a couple of smaller strokes.

“Initially you feel as if your life has come to an end. I thought it was an illness that affected older people. You don’t know what life holds for you.

“But the following day we phoned Alzheimer Scotland and a dementia advisor came to our house.”

According to Susan Rendell, who has supported younger people affected by dementia on behalf of the charity and now works as a training advisor, around 3,500 Scots are thought to be affected. She said care needs may be different to older people as patients may have a young family and are likely to be working full time.

In common with elderly people, however, there is the anxiety of the future care burden and financial responsibility that may be placed on spouses.


Ms Rendell said: “With younger people it tends to be rarer dementias such as frontotemporal dementia and Pick’s Disease. There is still a perception that dementia is an older person’s illness. It can affect anyone at any age. I think as we are progressing in society, GPs are hopefully better equipped to diagnose dementia but there are still issues.

“What we need to make sure is that Danny’s positive experience is replicated.”

Mr McDonald backs Alzheimer Scotland, supported by the The Herald’s Think Dementia campaign, which is calling for people with dementia to have access to free healthcare in the final years or months of their life.

He said: “It’s a worry. My wife has power of attorney and if you deteriorate rapidly you don’t know what kind of care provision you would need.”

Meanwhile, the father-of-two says he is just continuing to live his life and says being diagnosed with dementia has actually had positive repercussions.

He said: “I don’t think about the future too much. At the age I’m at, I could live for another 20 years. Conversely, I could also live for another five years.  You just make the most of today. My children are adults now and it would be nice to see grandchildren.

“We are very fortunate in Clydebank that we have a dementia resource centre right on our doorstep. We go to a community choir which is for everyone but inclusive of people with dementia, we go to a supper club and I go to a day centre twice a week. In lots of ways it has been a positive experience.”