It was impossible no to be moved by the four people in the early stages of dementia who told their stories on the @rednoseday Twitter feed, in a Comic Relief first on Thursday 26th February.
The nation gained a unique insight into their lives, from the challenges to often surprisingly uplifting realities. By sharing their stories Comic Relief hopes it will generate a greater understanding of the issue of dementia through the voices of those living with the illness.
There is no cure for dementia but Comic Relief uses cash raised through Red Nose Day to help fund 50 groups across the UK where people with dementia can meet others with the condition, support each other and, critically, raise awareness of the illness themselves, in their own words.
The four contributors are members of these groups and are: Jo, a 60 year old Grandmother from Stockport who has early onset Alzheimer’s; Phill aged 62 from Bedford who got married after his diagnosis; 56 year old Anne in Glasgow who has a rare strain of dementia, the same type as author Terry Pratchett; and Tommy, 62, from Liverpool who is now a passionate campaigner.
Jo told us how she remains active and ensuring her life remains as fulfilling as possible. She said: “My husband and I are keen runners, I keep a shoe box with all my medals which gives me a big sense of achievement and physically it is really important as running gets more oxygen to your brain so it stops the old brain cells withering away so quickly.”
You can listen to how Tommy’s relationship with his wife of 44 years has been affected.
Tommy said: “Alzheimer’s has changed my relationship with my wife 100%. I say things I wouldn’t normally say and without thinking, like that meal is horrible or that dress doesn’t look nice. The emotions I once had have gone and I lack the same empathy with people that I once had. I don’t feel like embracing anyone, I don’t give hugs.
“When I am with other people with dementia, we all share the same language and understand each other. It’s the only time we do have empathy, we don’t have to tell each other how we feel because we know.”
The day was supported by dementia charities, bloggers and celebrities who are following the stories @rednoseday and sharing their own views and insights using #dementiadiaries.
Actors Jim Broadbent, Tony Haygarth and John Partridge and TV presenters Fiona Phillips and Richard McCourt all have experience of the condition whether personally or through a family member and will be sharing their own perspectives. Tony Haygarth who has dementia visited a Red Nose Day funded project that holds activities helping people with the illness keep their minds active including through pet therapy, gentle exercise, art and gardening.
Actor and dementia campaigner Jim Broadbent said: “My mother lived with Alzheimer’s for the last couple of years of her life. People like her need support to be able to live as well as possible for as long as possible and the main burden of that will fall most often on close family members. Patients and carers alike need all the help they can get to put up a fairer fight against the disease.
“When I was in the film Iris with Judi Dench there was a hugely positive reaction for shining a light on what had been a somewhat taboo subject and knowing that there is still so much to be done is why I am supporting Comic Relief’s dementia focus for today.”
Red Nose Day 2015 raised a staggering £78 million with much more to be collected via pledges and on-going events. The money raised will help change the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people across Africa and the UK, including people with dementia.
If you’d like to donate go to the Red Nose Day site HERE