My grandmother developed Alzheimer’s in her late 70’s and she died more than 10yrs after diagnosis. The latter years of her life she was nothing more than existing with little to no recognition of friends and family. It not only robbed her of life it did the same to my grandfather as he visited her regularly right up to the end and felt a mix of obligation and guilt should he miss a visit.
I believe this had a very serious mental and inevitably physical effect on him which led a deterioration in his health. Shortly before she was placed in a care home we celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary having married shortly after WW2 which was my last happy memory of the two them together.
It also had an impact on my father and his three sisters, watching their mother and eventually father slowly deteriorate, although the latter was more down old age and other health complications accelerated through lack of ‘living’ from guilt of not sharing it with his wife.
For me, Alzheimer’s is possibly worse than a sudden death. It prolongs the inevitable and inflicts suffering on multiple people. You are without that person mentally but they are still there physically. You visit, hoping to trigger a flicker in their eye of a memory to bring some joy and meaning to their day, but in the end I’m not sure who the visits are for.
I’m sure this story is replicated many times from families who have been touched by the disease.
My challenge started out as a way of marking me turning 40. I’m fairly active anyway but did not often enter races. A few conversations passed with my wife and a few hours on Google looking at events and then I decided that I needed the motivation of making it public and raising money for a good cause to give me focus and ensure I completed it.
Alzheimer’s Research UK was an obvious starting point and the more I looked into the more it made sense. I didn’t realise that in a typical year more people die of (or with Alzheimer’s/Dementia) than anything else and that it is likely to be treatable.
One of my friends said after sponsoring me, ‘he was in investing in his future’ I believe his grandfather also died of Alzheimer’s.
James Erskine is fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK (justgiving.com)