A dad has shared heartbreaking pictures revealing how dementia has 'erased' his wife in just four years – leaving her unable to walk, talk and eat aged just 56.
Mum-of-two Gill Cardall was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia called progressive non-fluent aphasia in December 2015.
The following summer, she and husband Dominic renewed their wedding vows after 30 years of marriage, but Gill found she was unable to walk.
She began drawing 'squiggles' to communicate with her family – but has progressed to now needing 24-hour care.
Tragically, hubby Dominic, 55, now admits she is 'slowly fading in every aspect'.
In a bid to show that dementia 'can happen to anyone' and urge people to 'seize each day', Dominic is bravely sharing images to show the swift and devastating impact the disease has had.
The heartbreaking images show Gill as a 'wonderful and beautiful' lady in the prime of her life, smiling for the camera at a party, her hair glowing blonde.
The following picture shows her gray-haired, haggard and head lolling around while strapped in a wheelchair – clutching a toy doll like a child.
Dominic, from Congleton, Cheshire, said: "It's horrible really, to see that change.
"Gill was the life and soul of any party. She was kind, thoughtful but always spoke her mind.
"She always thought about others, never missed anyone's birthday and loved to be the center of attention. She was a very popular lady.
"[Now], she has become a frailer version of herself. It's as if she is slowly fading in every aspect – physically, mentally and just in who she is. It's like she's being erased by [dementia].
"I'd never seen the first photograph of Gill before – it was sent to me by one of her friends who was down at a Women's Royal Naval Service reunion this weekend.
"It knocked me sideways really. I got quite upset.
"The photograph was the last time Gill went [to the reunion] four years ago. That's what hit me. I knew how much it meant to her.
"I thought I need to share the pictures to raise awareness and give people a kick up the backside. [Dementia] can happen to anyone.
"Gill now needs 24 hour care, including her personal care and feeding. She has to have pureed food because of swallowing and choking issues.
"Her fluids are all thickened to make them like wallpaper paste.
"She's also losing a lot of weight. We can't keep the weight on her because of her eating issues."
Gill and Dominic married in 1986 after meeting in the Royal Navy in Plymouth, but two years later they both left to start a family.
They have two daughters, Emily, 30, and Georgia, 26, who now help with their mum's care.
Both girls still lived at home when Gill first became ill, and they noticed her starting to struggle with her speech.
Dominic said: "The first sign that anything was wrong was Gill started to have speech problems.
"At first we didn't know what it was. She'd say the wrong word in a sentence or get a word mixed up.
"It progressed over the next couple of months where she was having real problems with her speech, then her work contacted me to say she was having difficulties.
"We saw the GP and what was flagging it up for me was Gill's mum had Alzheimer's and her eldest sister, Anne, had dementia.
"Gill's condition is a type of frontal temporal dementia. It affects the speech element of the brain.
"She'd get words mixed up or couldn't find the right word.
"For example, she asked me to 'get her handbag out of the carton'. She didn't realize she wasn't saying car.
"That was one of the things I realized she was adamant about. It wasn't a slip of the tongue.
"We always called the TV remote control the 'zapper'. But she would say 'can you pass me, that tele-pointer thing'.
"She'd say 'I'd like a cup of hot water with a bag in it', rather than a cup of tea.
"Her brain was trying to work things out but getting them wrong, or mixed up."
Since Gill's family had a history of dementia and Alzheimer's, Dominic admits he feared from the beginning it was his wife's fate.
As her speech deteriorated, he noticed her personality beginning to change.
His 'kind, loving' wife had started to become 'less empathetic' and when their girls came home with good exam results, Gill failed to react.
Dominic said: "Pretty early on we thought something along those lines [of dementia] was happening.
"Her personality started to change too. She became less empathetic. She was always the most kind, loving person you could ever meet.
"I remember one of the girls came in and they'd passed something, an exam or a test, and Gill was completely blank about it.
"She also became very sharp with people, as if her inhibitions had gone completely. We'd go to a cafe and Gill would shout the waiter 'coffee, coffee!'
"That was not her, so we knew something had gone wrong."
At the end of 2015, Gill was booked to see a specialist at Salford Royal's cerebral function unit and after the first appointment, she was diagnosed with 'advanced' dementia.
Only eight months after her diagnosis, Gill and Dominic had planned to renew their vows, but after writing them together Gill was unable to read them.
Dominic said: "[The diagnosis] was a little bit of a relief. At least we knew then what it was.
"But also it's a double edged sword, the diagnosis, because then you know what's coming.
"Gill was in complete denial. She'd just keep saying 'it's just my speech, it's not dementia'. It progressed really quickly. She'd lost virtually all her speech by August 2016.
"It was our 30th wedding anniversary around that time and I arranged for us to renew our vows down in Plymouth, where we'd both served in the navy.
"She was determined to say the vows we'd written together and she couldn't do it when we went to church. She couldn't physically get them out.
"It was fine, she wasn't upset about it, but pretty soon after that she lost her voice completely.
"She was still writing things down, but that soon turned into symbols or squiggles.
"She'd just scribble circles that didn't make any sense."
Within two years, Gill was confined to a wheelchair as she struggled to walk properly. Stepping off the bottom step of her stairs 'terrified' her.
In the last 18 months, an occupation therapist has helped the family adapt their home for Gill, who now sleeps in their old dining room.
Dominic said: "We went to see the specialist two years ago. He said at the point she was in the advanced stages and that things would get progressively worse, and they have.
"Gill is in a wheelchair full time now. Quite quickly she had problems with working out how to get in and out of a chair.
"Trying to sit down was terrifying for her. She couldn't work it out. That progressed to walking and stepping downstairs.
"We'd manage to get her down the stairs and she'd spend 20 minutes trying to get off the bottom steps.
"She couldn't move her right leg and would shuffle along.
"We borrowed a wheeled walking frame with a seat which she used for a while, but then quite quickly within a couple of months she couldn't coordinate that.
"It was difficult to get her in and out of the car because she couldn't work out how to sit in it properly. I'd spend ages trying to get her to sit right.
"She couldn't get in and out of her chair without help to lift her.
"We then needed equipment which the occupational therapist provided. We had mobile hoists and swings, but soon we couldn't use those as she couldn't hold her weight up.
"Now we have a room that was the dining room converted into a bedroom for her downstairs. That's fully adapted."
Dominic is urging people 'to push' for a diagnosis if they notice something isn't right.
Although he finds comfort in his family, he admits there is little support out there for victims of early-onset dementia.
Dominic said: "If you think there's a change in your speech or personality, get to the doctor's straight away. People need to push.
"In groups I'm in [online], so many people have said their loved ones were diagnosed with depression or anxiety before being diagnosed with a form of dementia.
"There's a lot of misdiagnosis – especially with the rarer forms of dementia. I found a lot of information on the Alzheimer's UK website.
"I know they say you shouldn't self diagnose things, but the symptoms we had were absolutely spot on.
"The other really good help, because of Gill's age, was YoungDementia UK, because there's hardly anything out there for people with young onset dementia.
"Everything is focused towards older people and this is why I want to raise awareness.
"The groups that are held by charities are all sing-along groups or coffee mornings and focused on older people.
"Gill loved music but she didn't like Vera Lynn, she wanted to listen to Rick Astley. There's a hole in the whole system."