Tracey Shorthouse is an author and speaker, determined to live positively with dementia. She decided not to shy away from expressing her experiences and writing became a powerful vehicle for her to share her voice. Tracey lives with an early-onset dementia called Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA).
Please tell us about some of the work you have done to support, improve and contribute to the lives of, people with dementias?
I have spoken to people recently diagnosed with dementia telling them that it is possible to live well with dementia, giving examples of what I do in my life. I have spoken at conferences in London and around Kent spreading awareness that dementia affects all ages and that there are different types; it is not just memory-related.
I wrote a poetry book called I Am Still Me, which came about after my diagnosis, and there are some poems in there about my dementia. I have, and am still, taking part in research for dementia. I like to get involved in as many things as I can possibly do.
What was your motivation for getting involved in the field of dementia?
After being diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA), I wanted to do something to stimulate my brain and help others. I used to be a nurse before my diagnosis, and I loved helping others. Giving talks is a way of still doing that.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement or highlight?
I would say that the greatest achievement would be my book because I had never written poetry before, and I don’t really write now. I guess I needed an outlet to get rid of what I was feeling inside and poetry was the only way to do that at the time. It was cathartic for me.
But the highlight for me was winning an Inspirational Person Award at the Dementia Friendly Kent Awards held in Maidstone last year. That was totally out of the blue and unexpected.
I am still getting involved in lots of talks and meetings, mostly in London at the moment. I am in the third and final year of the IDEAL research project this year and involved in the Angela Project, which is trying to change the way people with dementia get diagnosed. I am also involved with other ongoing projects, which is important to me.
If you could change one thing now to improve the lives of people living with dementia, what would it be?
This is a hard one – I would say to change the way the public view dementia. It’s frustrating when people still have no understanding of what dementia actually is. I often get told that I don’t look like someone with dementia, whatever that means. I always think if we can challenge the stigma and gain a better understanding, then other things will start to change too.