When Dennis Frost found it hard to recognise the faces of his students - and the colleagues he'd worked alongside at TAFE for many years - he knew something was amiss.
What he didn't expect, at the age of 59, was to be diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. And to be told to "go home and get his affairs in order".
That was eight years ago and while Mr Frost has retired from teaching, he's working hard to reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding the condition which affects around 450,000 Australians.
He'll share his story at the 2019 Illawarra Public Dementia Forum: Breaking Down the Walls, to be held at Fairy Meadow's Fraternity Club on September 25.
"I was told I had two to eight years to live and should basically go home and prepare for the inevitable," Mr Frost said.
"However I was happy with the diagnosis as it offered an explanation for what I'd been experiencing. I'd been having difficulty recognising people's faces, people I'd worked with for 10 years.
"It took 18 months to get the diagnosis, which I think is relatively quick for a younger diagnosis."
It was a diagnosis his mother had received 15 years prior, at the age of 90, and he and his family had had little knowledge about the condition.
"The advice then was that she should go into care, which we organised. She lived a month in care before she had a fall and died from complications," he said.
Which is why Mr Frost, through his association with Dementia Australia and as chairperson of Kiama's Dementia Friendly Advisory Group, advocates for people with dementia to have support to stay at home.
"Most people I've encountered with dementia would ideally like to stay at home for the rest of their lives," he said. "But there's barriers to that due to the structure of the care system that has been built in Australia."
As well as improved in-home care services; the 65-year-old would like to see other changes to make communities more dementia-friendly. Like the work being done in Kiama, which has done much to raise awareness and reduce stigma.
The project includes regular information sessions and public lectures and there's training for local businesses to become dementia-friendly.
Organisers work with organisations to promote volunteering, employment and social engagement opportunities for people with dementia and signage has been improved in public areas.
"There's been a marked change in Kiama in terms of awareness about dementia," Mr Frost said.
"It's simple things like training businesses so they provide good old fashioned customer service - which might take a few minutes longer but can make a huge difference to someone with dementia."
Personally, Mr Frost - who's supported by wife Tina and their adult children - is living well with dementia, and is adapting to the changes his condition brings.
"I continue to have face blindness, but now I've learnt to identify people not by their face but their whole being - so their hair, their voice, the way they walk," he said. "Sometimes I can find someone in a crowd before anyone else."
He also has difficulty with balance, and things don't taste the same as they used to. But he has gained a better appreciation for music.
"There's been some emotional changes - I appreciate music very differently to how I did 10 years ago," he said. "The lyrics have become far more meaningful."
Carers, researchers and service providers will also present at the eighth annual dementia forum, a free event running from 10am to 3pm.
Dr Lyn Phillipson - an NHMRC dementia research fellow at the University of Wollongong - has helped organise the event.
"The typical story for people diagnosed with dementia is to be told because there aren't any medical treatments, to expect a life of deterioration," she said.
"But if they can remain physically active and socially engaged, it's likely to improve their symptoms and slow down their deterioration.
"So this forum aims to increase awareness about the supports and services out there to help people live well with dementia."
Register at Eventbrite.