Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, is the leading cause of death in England and Wales and can have a devastating effect on the lives of people affected. There is very little we can do about battling dementia and currently, there is no known cure. Watching the effects that dementia has can be very heart-breaking for families to see.
There are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, and this figure is set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting 62 per cent of those diagnosed. Although we are learning more about Alzheimer’s, scientists are yet to find a cure, meaning dementia can be very difficult for families to deal with.
A few years ago, 52-year old Julie from Cornwall noticed her mum, Susan, wasn’t quite acting herself. Julies daughter, Chloe, also noticed her grandmother was acting differently too. When their friends and family began to call Julie, worried about Susan, they knew something was wrong and that she should go and see her doctor.
Susan’s 23-year-old granddaughter, Chloe explained how they noticed little things. “Her balance had gone and she would forget the time and places.”
Julie recalled how her mum would get upset when she forgot things. “She’d walk to get something and suddenly she would start crying because she had forgotten directions around the house. The three of us, myself Chloe and my mum were really close and we would always meet up at 10am in the morning, that was the routine we kept to but when she forgot about our routine, she would call me asking “where are you?” That was when we realised, something was wrong.”
It is thought that many people who develop dementia don’t actually believe they have it, and they aren’t aware of their memory loss. Julie explained how her mum was in denial before she received the diagnosis. “She was in denial. The doctor sent her for tests and a CT scan and then the diagnosis came back that she had Alzheimer’s.”
As the family knew very little about Alzheimer’s, Chloe wanted to raise awareness with a fundraising event. “She did a tea party inspired by her Nan and she raised £1,600 for Alzheimer’s society.” Unfortunately, the family received little support in terms of learning about Alzheimer’s. “That’s why for us it isn’t all about raising money, it’s all about awareness.”
Once Susan was diagnosed, things went from bad to worse for the family. “Her balance completely went and as a result, she broke her arm, her shoulder and her hips in a short space of time.”
Susan was forced to go into a care home, despite Julie’s wishes for her to remain at home. “She was there five weeks and she just went mad. She was diagnosed with Lewy body where she hallucinates, she was seeing dead babies, giant spiders so she was sectioned unfortunately.” A week after Susan was sectioned, her husband, Julie’s dad, passed away. “It was a shock as my dad didn’t have anything wrong with him.”
Not long after the death of Julie’s dad, Julie and her daughter Chloe went out for their monthly dinner with their 10 friends. “The conversation started with my mum but as we were talking, we all of a sudden realised every one of us around the table knew someone with Alzheimer’s.
“Inspired by Chloe’s first fundraising event, we decided to fundraise as everyone in the group had a connection with it. This group of ladies have all had people around them diagnosed so although it started with my mum, it’s not just me and Chloe.”
When looking for a name, the group decided on Ladies Aloud.
“We would jokingly call ourselves ‘Ladies Aloud’ whenever we went out for dinner or the cinema, so it just made sense to go with that. At the moment 12 ladies is enough, and on fundraising days the women involved have their mums or friends help with us.”
As well as all having their own careers, Ladies Aloud hold many fundraising events in aid of Alzheimer’s Society. “The event we made the most on was called the dementia united challenge which included a six-hour sponsored relay walk followed by a veteran football match. On the day we had bouncy castles, face painting, food and we raised a staggering £8,000 that day which went straight to Alzheimer’s Society.”
Previous events also involve a dragon-boat race and a pre-loved sale and a Christmas coffee morning. The next big event will take place in February and the ladies have big plans. “A 90’s band are playing for us and the tickets ae £10 per head. The venue can take 300 and we’re having a raffle.”
As well as organising fundraising events, their local football team, Truro City F.C., have also got involved with the cause. “We bucket collect at the football and we got £200 one day £96 another.” As well as these collection buckets, the ladies have ensured there are 20 dementia tins in shops in their area.
Despite working hard to organise all these fundraising events, as well as holding down their own individual jobs, the ladies show no sign of slowing down and remain a strong and inspiring group of women to raise funds and more importantly awareness for this great cause. “We hope this will go on for as long as we can. Every one of us are really positive and everyone really enjoys it. It’s not just to go and make money, we talk to people, have a laugh then we all go out for a drink after.
“In the group, every one of us is different but we all connect. One of the girls’ mums passed away a few weeks ago and she had to pull out of a few meeting and events, she’s back with us again now. Obviously, things like that do happen but we all support each other. It’s a good group of women.
“As long as we’re all able to do it and we can get as much awareness out as possible, we all want to carry on.”
Thousands of people have united against dementia this year with Alzheimer’s Society by fundraising, volunteering and campaigning for change, but there are still too many people facing dementia alone.
Someone develops dementia every three minutes so it is critical that people continue uniting in 2018 so dementia doesn’t win. From volunteering with Alzheimer’s Society’s new Side by Side service (supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery), joining one of their fundraising events or writing to a local MP, there are so many ways people can get involved in the New Year.
The best gifts can’t be wrapped this Christmas so volunteer, fundraise or campaign with Alzheimer’s Society. Visit alzheimers.org.uk/unite to find out how you can unite against dementia.
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