‘I feel very angry – I cannot control it’

Mick Levesque with his wife Maureen. Picture: Allan Hutchings (122570-031)
Mick Levesque with his wife Maureen. Picture: Allan Hutchings (122570-031)
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Mick Levesque wakes up every morning not knowing what his day will bring.

The 68-year-old, of Ludlow Road in Paulsgrove, has spent the last five years adapting to life with Alzheimer’s disease.

Visually, he is the figure of good health – something he admits himself.

But deep down the former dockyard foreman, who also suffers from epilepsy, worries about what the future may hold.

His doting wife Maureen, who he married 34 years ago, is not only his companion, but his carer.

She admits the past few years have been tough on the couple, who used to enjoy ballroom dancing.

Maureen, 62, says their lives were turned upside down eight years ago when Mick’s personality changed.

He started feeling depressed and his memory waned.

Visits to the doctors confirmed he was suffering from depression and he was placed on medication.

But the extent of his illness wasn’t revealed until Mick went missing. He was found by a car recovery service on the M3 in Basingstoke. Later Maureen discovered he had driven from Portsmouth to London and back onto the M3. But her husband had no recollection of the incident.

Maureen said: ‘We took him to Basingstoke hospital and was told he had a brain haemorrhage.

‘He started having epilepsy from there, and after Christmas that year he was saying he was going to kill me.’

He was admitted to Hamble House in Southsea for care and six months later he was diagnosed with vascular dementia.

Since then, Mick has been on medication – currently 15 different types – and has been prescribed with the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept.

‘I’m perfectly capable of getting up in the morning and making a cup of tea’, says Mick.

‘I can do that because it’s a routine. But if you add something else in you’ve got problems.

‘I feel very angry, I cannot control it. One morning I went to take the dog out with my wife, but then I started swearing at her and I go down hill.

‘I’ve had a bad temper for years but this is different – I get really angry, but through frustration.

‘I’m totally incapable of controlling it. I used to do a lot of DIY at home, I could do all sorts of things but I can’t any more.’

Maureen said: ‘You can sometimes see when he wakes up that he’s had a bad day. He doesn’t understand anything and he can give you grief.

‘It’s a light switch. He can change if you say the wrong word. You won’t know what he’s going to be like each day.

‘It’s changed our lives completely. I’ve had to adjust because I know I can’t change Mick, but you have to keep calm all the time. It makes me sad.

‘We’re staying in more but we do go out and eat. He likes eating out and that’s the only pleasure we’ve got but there’s no conversation.

‘We cannot go out with loads of crowds. We tried to go to the theatre but now he doesn’t like it because it’s too noisy. It’s disorientating for him.’

Mick hasn’t had a fit caused by his epilepsy for five months, but fears he could die from having one.

He added: ‘I had a funny turn the other day. Maureen went to bed and I sat in the arm chair.

‘I felt this heat around me, it turned into an aura and I felt like I was going to have a fit.

‘I think that if I have a fit I will be too weak to fight it, and honestly start thinking I’m going to have a fit and die.’

Mick admits his condition sometimes creates images of people that are not there.

He said: ‘I’ve see people come out of the walls. One of them lives in America.

‘I’ve seen my brother-in-law walk through the door and wave.’

Now Mick and Maureen are using their experience to promote the early onset of Alzheimer’s and the work of the Alzheimer’s Society.

The pair launched the charity’s memory walk last month, which will see thousands of people walk along Southsea seafront to raise funds and awareness.

Maureen said: ‘People can be very young when they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

‘There are people who are in their 70s or 80s, but there are people with it who are 38 too.

‘They really do need help but the government’s not doing enough for them

‘There are no care homes because they are for the elderly.

‘They need to do more for early on set and that’s what people need to be pushing for now.’

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

ALZHEIMER’S disease is the most common form of dementia – but scientists have yet to find a cure for it.

It was discovered by German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer in 1906, and the condition was named after him.

Symptoms include aggressive tendencies, irritability, confusion, mood swings and long-term memory loss.

The disease is diagnosed in most cases in people over 65 years of age, but there are cases of early onset Alzheimer’s.

One in three people over 65 will die with dementia and it is predicted to affect one in 85 people worldwide by 2050.

There are currently more than 2,200 people living with dementia in Portsmouth, and this figure is expected to rise to 2,600 by 2021.

In Hampshire alone, there are 23,400 people living with it, and this is set to break the 30,000 barrier in just nine years.

Research carried out by the Alzheimer’s Society shows 800,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, and in less than ten years a million people will be living with the disease.

MEMORY WALK

THE couple are urging people to take part in the Alzheimer’s Society’s memory walk in Portsmouth this September.

They launched the walk back in July and it will take place on September 15.

Starting at Castle Field, it is hoped thousands of people will attend the day and take part in either a 3km walk or a longer 10km route.

The walk will take in the sights of Southsea seafront and the dockyard.

Amber Reed, Alzheimer’s Society’s locality manager, said: ‘We are so grateful to Mick and Maureen for supporting memory walk. It is a fantastic way to spend a Saturday.

‘From a four-year-old to his 80-year-old gran and her dog, it sees families coming together to fight dementia.’

To register, visit memorywalk.org.uk