Dementia is a cruel and devastating condition for anyone diagnosed with it, but early onset dementia can come as an especially severe blow.
When Phyllis Feener was diagnosed with dementia in 2012, she and her family were in disbelief – she was only 53.
The family thought her recent memory loss might have been associated with menopause, but the cause was something much more unexpected.
Five years on from that shocking diagnosis, Phyllis’ daughter Kelli Taylor has shared a picture to Twitter of her mum and dad that’s as beautiful as it is sad.
The photo of Phyllis and her husband, Stan, was captioned: “My parents have been married for 34 years. My mom is in the final stages of young onset dementia … My dad cares for her full-time.
“She doesn’t always remember his name but she knows she is safe with him.
“If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.”
The tweet struck a chord, with 615,000 likes 117,00 re-tweets and more than 5000 comments wishing her and the family well since it was posted on April 26.
“I’m reading through all the replies to this with tears running down my face,” Ms Taylor tweeted on April 27 after the overwhelming response.
“I want to reply to everyone but there’s so much, I don’t even know where to start.”
Two days later, she tweeted that the response was “completely unbelievable … Just thank you.”
The family set up a GoFundMe page with a target of US $13,000 ($17,000) to help with Phyllis’ care, but it has already far exceeded that, sitting at almost US $21,000 ($27,000).
“Neurologists tell us there is no cure for dementia; that the medications prescribed will only slow down the progress,” the GoFundMe page states.
“Today, Phyllis’ condition has progressed to a point that she cannot be left alone.
“She is unable to perform simple tasks like pouring a bowl of cereal or dressing herself, has trouble communicating her thoughts and needs, and has forgotten names of family members.
“Please pray for our family as we grapple with both the practical and emotional difficulties of this situation.”
Early onset dementia is generally described as any form of dementia diagnosed in people under 65.
According to Dementia Australia, latest figures show that approximately 26,000 Australians are currently living with early onset dementia.