Recently I have seen a lot of reference to mental illness and how it’s dealt with. Any mental illness is undoubtedly difficult and people are affected in different ways. For me Alzheimer’s/dementia are the aspects that have affected me, this being through my work and personal life. Having studied quite a lot about dementia and being in situations with families who are dealing with it has provided me with an insight into how it affects people.
There are many issues and problems that can arise when dealing with dementia, yet the biggest most simplistic issue I’ve witnessed is ignorance. It is surprising the amount of people that don’t get the right support to deal with dementia, for both the person with the illness and the people who are providing the care. I have seen all too often family carers rejecting help because they feel it is their duty to care or they are adamant their loved one is fine and nothing is wrong with them. I find this lack of education on the subject very frustrating as there are so many ways that the life of a person suffering from dementia can be fulfilled and made adaptable.
Whilst sitting in Birmingham New Street train station last December I got talking to an elderly man who told me the story of his late wife who was a sufferer of Alzheimer’s. For a good forty minutes he told me their full life story which was like a fairy tale life; happily married, children, grandchildren and many happy memories. When his wife was first diagnosed he refused all care and help from outsiders. He wanted to care for her as she was his wife and they made the vow to care for each other. Usually this would never work, but Fred being the proactive man he is made it into something that has changed the lives of many who are now in the same position as him. He took his past as an engineer and adapted his skills to understanding how the everyday needs of his wife could be made easier. Needless to say this worked wonders, allowing him and his wife to carry on there life as normal as possible. Once she passed away, Fred donated his life to researching the disease and providing vital information to organisations of mental health. His story can be found in a book that he wrote about his experience, which also features scientific explanations to give a deeper understanding (‘Alzheimer’s: An Engineer’s View‘ Fred Walker and Chris Pomfrett)
“No one should have to make the journey through Alzheimer’s disease, neither as a patient nor as a carer”
The book provides a fascinating insight into a personal story, which is very rare to come across. As a result, Fred is a supporter of Alzheimer’s Research UK, often travelling the country to provide speeches at events and fundraisers. Fred is the most inspirational person I have yet come across and I hope that by reading his story, people can get a better idea of how to cope with dementia and understand that it isn’t going to be an easy ride.