I’ve always said that I would never do a marathon. So, why the change of heart? Following my dad’s death in December 2012, I wanted to do something in his memory.
My dad was diagnosed with dementia in January 2010. The years that followed were heart breaking as we witnessed my clever, funny and much loved dad decline with astonishing speed. Dementia affects each individual differently and so, as a result, no one can predict the advancement of the disease. There are no timescales. For some people, the deterioration is very slow and old age may take them before the more distressing symptoms of Alzheimer’s become apparent. We weren’t prepared for the speed at which we began to lose dad.
What many people don’t realise is that Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness. There are no happy endings once a diagnosis has been given.
The term ‘dementia’ is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases and conditions. Symptoms of dementia include loss of memory, confusion and problems with speech and understanding (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013). There are different types of dementia but they all have one thing in common; they are all progressive. This means that the individual affected loses the ability to remember, understand, reason and communicate.
The Alzheimer’s Society provides support to those who have the disease and their families. They also invest up to £2 million each year into research. The Society says “This money funds important research that will help us to improve the quality of life for people with dementia, by tackling questions related to the causes of dementia, investigating good practice in care and treatment, and pursuing a cure.”
Currently, there are approximately 800,000 living with dementia in the UK today. This number is set to increase to one million by 2021 and 1.7 million by 2051 (BBC, 2013). This is why I believe raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society is so important.
I want to run the marathon for the Alzheimer’s Society in dad’s memory in order to raise awareness of dementia; one of the cruelest diseases. I want to raise money in the hope that one day, a cure will be found. I also want to make people aware that dementia does not affect only the person with the disease. The ripples of dementia spread very wide, affecting all those who know and love the person. Above all, I want to give those who are looking after a loved one affected by dementia a voice. I want them to know that there are people who care for them; while their only aim is to keep on looking after their loved one, making it through one arduous day after another. Struggling through lack of sleep; too weary to actively look for support.
Initially, mum and dad were given a lot of support. Dad went on trips with other people affected by dementia. He loved the cut throat shave he received in Cockermouth and the Jenning’s Brewery tour. It gave mum a few hours a week in which she could get on with normal day to day activities without having to keep a close eye on what dad was doing.
As time went on, and dad’s behaviour grew more challenging, the support seemed to fade away. Carers were inadequately trained to deal with the more difficult aspects of dad’s dementia and dad could no longer go on trips out. Mum lost those precious hours during the week where she could previously recharge her batteries. There was no chance to relax as dad needed to be constantly monitored; unaware of dangerous situations and unpredictable due to his vulnerability at being in a world he no longer recognised or understood.
I signed up for the Lakeland Trails marathon because I knew that it would be a real challenge for me. A marathon is a feat of endurance at the best of times. An off-road one adds its own set of difficulties. I know it will hurt. I know it will be a struggle. I also know that what I will endure is nothing compared to the daily struggles of those affected by dementia, their family and friends.
To those who have already donated in dad’s memory, to a cause that is close to my heart, I’d like to say a huge Thank You. If you’d like to donate, then you can do so by clicking here.