WHEN Emma Ruscoe's husband started withdrawing from her and stopped wanting to go out with friends, her first thought was that he was having an affair.
She couldn't have imagined what was really going on.
Simon, 58, started displaying subtle signs that something was amiss eight years ago.
Emma, 55, an administrator from Solihull, West Midlands, recalled: "I noticed a change in his behaviour at the end of 2015.
"Simon stopped wanting to go out with friends, he didn't want to go out and socialise.
"He became very reserved, and I noticed he was withdrawing more and more, to the point I thought he was having an affair."
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On top of being more distant, Emma noticed that Simon started taking wrong turns when they went on familiar journeys.
The pair went on holiday to Cephalonia, Greece in August 2016 with their two sons – Alex, now 26, and Oliver, now 21.
The mum-of-two said that Simon became very argumentative and would forget conversations that had just happened.
Emma decided to do something about it when they got back home.
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She said: "When we got back from holiday, we went to our GP.
"Simon got referred to a memory clinic but he was constantly missing appointments.
"After two years of battling, we went back to the doctors in March 2018 as he still didn't seem right.
"We got an appointment at the memory clinic in June 2018, we were fobbed off.
"There were no tests, we spoke to a psychologist, and he told us that Simon was stressed.
"We received a letter saying categorically that my husband didn't have dementia."
Concerned by Simon's deteriorating behaviour, Emma went back to the GP and was referred again to the memory clinic.
The pair went to a few appointments where Simon was assessed and in January 2020, he was diagnosed with early onset dementia.
Though the diagnosis was devastating, Emma described feeling a "sense of relief" to finally have a answers.
"I knew something was wrong and I was battling for so long – nobody believed there was anything wrong with him," Emma said.
Emma said she finally felt she knew "what [she] was dealing with".
She went on: "I can't fault my GP as they did refer us to the memory clinic, but I think they should also be sign-posting people to the Alzheimer's Society.
"We would have gotten so much advice and support."
Soon after Simon's diagnosis, the UK went into lockdown.
Emma said it was "hard" to look after Simon, but they adapted.
She said: "From my point of view lockdown was hard. He was in the mild stage of the disease.
"But what lockdown meant for me is I was able to work from home so I could get Simon to do his own personal care.
"We have to stand with him, but he does it on his own."
Unfortunately, Simon's condition has quite rapidly deteriorated.
"It's gone from asking him to cut the lawn 12 months ago to now him not being able to do anything on his own," Emma said.
"What makes it easy with Simon is that he is a lovely person, and the dementia has not changed that."
Emma described identifying with the recent news of TV star Fiona Phillips being diagnosed with Alzheimer's at 62.
"I read about Fiona Phillips, and she has the right philosophy, you have to carry on as much as you can," she said.
Emma said she hopes that Simon will continue to be cared for at home but admits she doesn't know what the future holds.
She said: "Reading the prognosis, he probably will go into a home, but we will fight that every step of the way – I would prefer him to be at home.
"I have two boys that live at home, my mum lives down the road and she helps out when she can.
"I am looking for a personal assistant to give us a break and give Simon some independence.
"It is a living grief – you watch that person deteriorate. We have been together for 31 years.
"Watching the person, I have grown up with disappear is heartbreaking.
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"On bad days it feels like my heart is being ripped out but on good days I think I am lucky that he is still here.
"He is my soul mate – the love of my life and he always will be."
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