My dear aunt, Hermione, has been gradually withdrawing and deteriorating for several years, as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. My dear uncle, Jeremy, is an absolute hero, supporting and looking after her without a word of complaint, sacrificing opportunities to travel, socialise and enjoy himself, in order to keep Hermione safe and content. Lockdown was particularly difficult, since they had to reduce their daily routines to be COVID-compliant: no more morning coffee at the local café, which Hermione always enjoyed; no more carers coming in; no more seeing their middle son and his family, despite their living literally across the road. And, of course, Jeremy had to be super-careful not to let Hermione or himself catch coronavirus.
Things are improving now, from the lockdown point of view, but Hermione’s condition has degenerated to the extent she needs help washing and dressing. It’s bad.
I live 200 miles away and have been able to do very little to help. What I have done has been indirect but I like to think it’s made a difference. In August 2019, I did a sponsored walk along Hadrian’s Wall to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society, which provides an excellent service to people with the disease and the people looking after them. The walk was 22 miles and I only just made it. I crawled over the finish line a good hour after everyone else had gone home… but I did it. My sponsors were generous and we raised over £1,000.
Twenty-three months later, in July 2021, I’m going to be doing another sponsored walk for the Alzheimer’s Society. This time it’s 100 km (approx 60 miles) over a weekend and I’m slightly anxious I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. It’s going to be a big deal covering 30 miles in a day – and the prospect of having to do it again after a few hours’ sleep in a tent is making me wonder what on earth I was thinking when I signed up for this.
Unlike when I attempted the Transpennine Trail back in 2012 (mentioned in the talk) and, honestly, Hadrian’s Wall, this time I’ve been training quite seriously and applying a bit of scientific method. I’ve been spending many hours on the cross-trainer (pictured) and also out and about in the beautiful green areas in and around Manchester.
This is my biggest challenge to date but I’m hopeful my preparation will support my determination and I will cover the necessary ground in the allotted time. More importantly, I’m hoping to raise £1,500 for the Alzheimer’s Society this time. If you’re reading this and you feel moved to donate, please click through to my JustGiving page and do so. It’s a completely safe system and you’ll be helping families devastated by dementia.