30 January 2018

Race against Alzheimer’s

By Ben Parker, trainee solicitor, Hayes + Storr Solicitors.

Running the London Marathon has always been an aspiration of mine. However it can be difficult to commit to something so physically demanding and time consuming when the necessary motivation remains elusive.

I found the motivation after witnessing the immense sadness a family very close to me had to endure because of Alzheimer’s disease. As a result of that experience, I’m running the London Marathon this year with the goal of raising £6,000.00 for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Thanks to friends, family and colleagues and a generous donation of £1,000 from Hayes + Storr who fully support Alzheimer’s research, I’ve already raised over two thirds of the money necessary to participate. However, I still have £3,000 of my target outstanding and welcome any donation no matter how big or small. All the money raised goes to Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Despite dementia affecting my own family, I was not aware of the severity of Alzheimer’s. I associated the disease with memory loss and confusion, symptoms I thought were just part of aging, something inevitable which didn’t have the potential to be so totally debilitating and destructive.

Alzheimer’s leads to the death of nerve cells and the loss of brain tissue. One in six people over the age of 80 develop the disease. There is still no comprehensive understanding of its connection with genetic inheritance and no definitive way of completely removing your chances of diagnosis. Alzheimer’s is degenerative and once diagnosed, will likely never improve. Until recently, I had never witnessed the slow degeneration of someone and how it can become the most crippling and heart-breaking of diseases.

When my girlfriend Alice’s late grandmother Pamela was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and became a resident of a local care home, her family visited her daily for three years. Alice’s mother, Elizabeth cared for her and helped her with anything she needed. Inevitably, Pamela’s ability to behave in a loving mother-daughter role deteriorated and her actions at times were frantic and concerning.

Elizabeth worked herself to exhaustion caring for her mother. She regularly helped Pamela pack her things because she was determined to go home, unaware that this was not a possibility. The care home was the safest place for Pamela but she couldn’t understand why she was there or where she was. The confusion caused her much anxiety, keeping her awake night and day, contributing towards her mental and physical deterioration.

Elizabeth spoke to Pamela about treasured memories, including people from the past and present. There would be moments of recognition from Pamela but as the months wore on, she was unable to recall any of those people or memories. At times she didn’t recognise her own daughter, granddaughter or grandson.

This story is one which many thousands of families have had to endure. Your donation to my Just Giving page will go some way in helping to transform the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. If running the London marathon encourages anyone to donate towards Alzheimer’s Research UK then that is all the motivation I need. Alzheimer’s Research UK carry-out vital research that could one day lead to a cure.