Ex-rugby player and sub-postmaster diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's
- Credit: Richard Batson
A sub-postmaster and former rugby player who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's aged just 60 is fighting to offer others the support he could not find.
'So...what next?' was the first question that came to mind when Dirck Geary's doctor diagnosed him with early-onset Alzheimer's earlier this summer.
The 60-year-old from Southrepps had also just been told that he had a higher than average IQ for the way he undertook a number of memory test, but it was the diagnosis that sparked the question.
"You have your suspicions, but when somebody tells you outright, that's what it is, you're taken aback, and the first thing that went through my head was so, I've got Alzheimer's, what next?" he said.
Mr Geary had first gone to his doctor around two years ago complaining of a permanent headache and becoming forgetful. He was sent for MRI scans, blood tests and checks to ensure he did not have cancer.
The tests all came back clear and Mr Geary, who played for the Leicester Tigers as a wing and full back in the 1970s and 80s, was told it may be depression, but having experienced depression in the past he was not convinced.
Soon after, Mr Geary and his wife Lorraine moved house and doctors' surgery.
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Mr Geary went to his new GP, explained the situation, and this time was referred to a memory clinic.
Over the next 18 months, he underwent further MRI scans, which revealed scar tissue on his brain which may have been caused by repeated "high-speed concussions" during his rugby playing days and a 2016 robbery during which he was knocked unconscious.
Soon, the diagnosis of early on-set Alzheimer's arrived.
Mr Geary said: "I played rugby for many years and had one or two knocks on the head and another serious bang on the head when the post office got robbed.
"The MRIs showed scar tissue which was causing the headaches but that's nothing too serious.
"There was no suggestion of any tumour or any sort of cancer, [the doctor said] you probably don't realise how high your IQ is - but you have got Alzheimer's."
Mr Geary said before getting the formal diagnosis he had already "realised what was going on" and starting working on solutions to his forgetfulness.
"We started working on it quite early and before the diagnosis. I was struggling to know what day of the week it was getting up in the morning but now I have clocks around the house which tell me what day it is," he said.
Following his diagnosis, Mr Geary went looking for support for younger people with dementia and their partners but found the majority of groups catered for people in the later stages of the disease.
Inspired by the question which first came to mind when he received his diagnosis he set up So..., which aims to support people in a similar situation.
Now, he has launched a fundraising project to pay for the hire of Southrepps Village Hall, where he hopes to hold regular meetings where younger people with dementia and their partners can support each other.
He said: “I have been lucky to be diagnosed early and a combination of drugs and advice is slowing down the progression and helping me deal with the early stages.
“But when I looked around for a group where people in a similar situation could meet, talk, and share ideas there wasn’t one locally, so we have decided to start one – initially at Southrepps, but hopefully expanding to North Norfolk and beyond."
The group will launch with a fundraising morning at Southrepps Village Hall on Wednesday, September 1 at 10am. The event will feature cakes, craft stalls, bric-a-brac and a raffle for a pamper hamper.
To donate to the fundraising effort visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sodotdotdot
People wanting to find out more can also drop into the fundraiser coffee morning on or contact Mr Geary via email@example.com or 01263 833397.