The last few years has made me question my mortality on an increasingly regular basis.
My morbid thoughts are caused by a combination of factors. It’s something to do with my feet being firmly planted in middle age (with the big 5-0 just around the corner). It’s to do with me still thinking like I’m young and ‘down with the kids’ but actually creaking out of bed in the morning – ‘my mind is still young but my body feels very old’ (opposite of what Noel Gallagher sings on “Half the World Away”). As a complete aside – it was rammed home to me this Sunday when playing my 14-year-old son at badminton and he’s leaping round the court like a gazelle whilst I’m getting frustrated as I am nowhere near reaches that I would have got with ease in my 20’s. That said, you can have all the speed and stamina in the world but if you don’t have the tactical guile that I have gained from many years of coaching and competition then it all stands for nothing! Speed of mind trumps speed of feet!
I digress, Guy Garvey, lead singer of the band Elbow, in his Manchester Ritz introduction to the song Weightless (which is about the loss of his father and birth of his son) refers to the sad fact of life that those of us who reach middle age will typically be impacted by the loss of at least one loved one. It’s to do with close friends and colleagues battling cancer, it’s to do with losing loved ones. Most of my friends still battle with the grief caused by the loss of a close loved one. This is what brings me to the subject in hand, World Alzheimer’s Day, which this year is Tuesday the 21st September.
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, someone in the world develops Dementia (Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Dementia) every 3 seconds. In 2020 there were over 55 million people in the world living with Dementia and this is set to almost double every 20 years.
The global cost to society will be $2.8 trillion in 2030!
The likelihood is that anyone approaching or in middle age will be affected in some way by a loved one having Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
I am one of those who has been impacted. September this year was meant to mark the month I was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in memory of our beloved mum who sadly passed away of Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia in February 2019. Losing mum sparked me into doing something positive and this trek was giving me a renewed purpose and focus, something I needed, particularly in these challenging times.
If it wasn’t for COVID, on this very day the group and I would have been 6 days into an 8 day trek (Lemosho route for anyone interested), preparing for an early start to get to the summit for sunrise on the 22nd. This would have been followed by a fairly rapid descent (2 days), a visit to a local orphanage and a relaxing 3 day safari. This trek was bringing together family, friends and friends of friends, all with individual reasons to complete the challenge and with different charities to raise money for.
We have now rescheduled for 4th September 2022 and I’m determined to do it before I reach the big 5-0! Incidentally we have a small number of spare places in our group so if you are looking for a challenge and exceptional experience please get in touch if you want to find out more. The company who will be managing the trek is https://kilimanjaroclimbingcompany.com.
I haven’t finalised the specific Alzheimer’s charity I will be raising money for, but it will be going to one that focuses on research. I am also writing a book about my experiences of a loved one with Alzheimer’s (due to be released next year) with the proceeds also going to Alzheimer’s research. In my lifetime they will find a cure.
So, on this day I give thanks for my own mental health, to the medical professionals who work tirelessly to try and find a cure for Alzheimer’s, to the charities who strive to increase awareness and support families affected, to the families and friends who care for loved ones with the disease and finally for those with the disease who deserve appropriate treatment, love and care.
The Alzheimer’s Society have lots of leaflets and information on their website and we also found huge support from a local dementia friendly day care centre which Mum loved to go to. Huge thanks to Albany Oasis for giving her some independence and for providing my Dad with a much needed rest from care. (www.albanyoasis.co.uk)
If you or a friend is struggling to find advice or support, or you think a friend or parent may have the early signs of Alzheimer’s, talk about it. Pick up the phone and give me a call. As well as charities, there are lots of books and social media groups out there so find one what works for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts.