This Friday (21 September) is World Alzheimer’s Day. September is, in fact, World Alzheimer’s Month with this one day as the focus. Driven in the UK by Alzheimer’s Society and other charities, the idea is that everyone – organisations and individuals around the world – work together to “raise awareness, highlight issues faced by people affected by dementia and demonstrate how we can overcome them to help people live well with dementia.” That last bit is a quote from Alzheimer’s Society website.
It is, of course, exactly what I aim to do with these blogs of which I have now written over sixty. Every week more and more people tell me that they find them enlightening and helpful. Sometimes I’m even told that I’ve “moved” someone which is humbling. And the feedback comes from complete strangers. The other day I was in John Lewis at Ashford, Kent applying for one of their rather good credit cards. Of course I was asked what I do for a living and after a bit I mentioned these blogs. “I bet that’s helping many other people” said the warm, tactful woman who was processing my application.
As a journalist I get sent information about “awareness” days of one sort or another all the time. There’s one almost every day of the year, arguably far too many to be effective. It’s different for Alzheimer’s though. Globally, dementia is one of the biggest challenges we face, with nearly 50 million people living with dementia worldwide and we are told all the time that there are 850,000 people in the UK with dementia, 650,000 of them with Alzheimer’s. I don’t think My Loved One ever planned or wanted to be a statistic but these things happen.
So if you get the chance this week to attend a fund raising event or to contribute to an Alzheimer’s charity then I urge you to do it. Or maybe you might think about a little monthly direct debit which is what I’ve done. As the Alzheimer’s Society puts it; “To tackle this global dementia challenge we need to work together, and to collaborate and share best practice with one another.” But, of course, like everything else it costs money.
I’ve been thinking about Christmas cards too. Sorry, yes I know it’s only September but I’m an organised sort. For many years I’ve bought and sent cards in aid of Kidney Care UK and the Donkey Sanctuary. The former was in memory of my father who died of kidney disease in 1997 and the latter because I like, really like, donkeys. This year, under the circumstances, I’ve decided it has to be something different and I’ve ordered cards from the Alzheimer’s Society which declares that 100% of their profits are spent on their work. Every little helps, as a certain supermarket likes to remind us.
Meanwhile back on the home front I seem to find myself increasingly fielding semi-verbal non-sequiturs. “I can’t find the thing with the spout” MLO said recently. “Do you mean the teapot? If so it’s in the dishwasher. Why do you want it?” said I. “No [fumbling for words] I meant a green thing.” I eventually ascertained that he was looking for the small watering can for the hanging baskets. If you live with Alzheimer’s you need to be psychic – especially when, as often happens – the question or comment and response bear no relation to each other.
You need to maintain a sense of humour too. A couple of weeks ago, we had a problem with the controls on heating, hot water, radiators etc. I emailed our younger son (the family pro plumber who’d set it all up), asked for advice and went off to the theatre for work. I hadn’t expected our heroic son to drive up from Brighton and be on the doorstep by 7.15 – but he’d forgotten the keys he has to our house, so he rang the bell.
Now, living with Alzheimer’s is, in many ways, like caring for a child again. I have “forbidden” MLO as forcefully as I can from opening the front door to anyone he doesn’t know when I’m not in the house. He’s supposed to peep through the porch door to see who it is. On this occasion, he partially remembered what he’d been told and didn’t open either door. Result? A frustrated, but ultimately amused son, who had to phone me and then call his dad up on the landline to say he was outside. But, when I came out of the theatre there was a very welcome text telling me laconically: “Heating fixed”.
Yes, we need to keep raising awareness of, and funding research into, this hideous illness. Do what you can this week.