"You can still live your life to the fullest if you understand what the condition is."

This is the motto dementia sufferer Peter Ohlson lives by after being diagnosed with the brain disease at a young age.

September is Dementia Awareness Magnolia Month and a number of events are being held in Rotorua throughout the month to highlight awareness.

Dementia Lakes manager and support co-ordinator Lynne Luke says the organisation supports about 200 people affected by dementia in the Rotorua region, which can occur in those aged under 65.


"We support about 200 clients but we know there are many more people out there who have dementia that are not engaging with our service.''

She says raising awareness of dementia is important to help reduce the stigma around it, and so that people can plan for their future with things such as Enduring Power of Attorney and to be supported to remain engaged in the community.

Peter Ohlson is a local aged under 65 who has been diagnosed with dementia.

"It was about October/November last year I was diagnosed. I must admit it was a shock.

"After getting over the initial shock, the mind starts to spin and go 'now what am I going to do'."

Peter says he used to work for Oranga Tamariki, in the youth justice sector, and had been with them for about 19 years.

He says his signs of dementia were picked up by a supervisor, who noticed Peter was slowly forgetting times for getting reports done and going to meetings.

His doctor did a brief check on him and recommended he see a specialist at the hospital, which was where a scan was taken and that was how he found out he had vascular dementia.


"My long-term memory is fine, it was retaining the short-term memory."

Peter says because of the nature of the work he was doing there were no provisions for him to try and work within the system with his diagnosis.

"I had a big decision to make and after much thought decided to take early retirement."

Peter strongly recommends that supports be put in place and that dementia and Alzheimers is clearly understood.

"I think it's so important because it has a big effect on one's health and wellbeing, and can affect the ones you love like your family, as well as everyday living.

"You can still live your life to the fullest if you understand what the condition is."

Peter says people are amazed he is still driving and doing what he does.

He currently does activities such as joining the Menz Shed, going to a 60s gym club and going to the meetings at Dementia Lakes.

Dementia is a brain disease and the most common form is Alzheimers.

Almost 70,000 people are now living in New Zealand with dementia and by 2050 this number is predicted to be 170,000.

Dementia Lakes supports anyone living with dementia.

Some of the things Dementia Lakes holds are regular get-togethers for carers and clients, community talks about dementia, cognitive stimulation therapy, a living-with-memory-loss education course for those caring for someone with dementia, regular hui at Tipu Ora and other support groups.

Dementia Awareness Magnolia Month in Rotorua
- Dementia Awareness Bike Ride, September 28, 10 am, Lakefront boardwalk, guided ride around the urban CyWay, scooters, mobility scooters and bikes all welcome
- Poetry reading by Michelle Mills, September 24 and 26, 12pm, Rotorua Library
- Dementia Lakes question sessions: September 12, 10.30am and 5.30pm, Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust