Davina McCall and family are joining forces with Alzheimer’s Society to tackle dementia after being inspired by her dad who is living with Alzheimer’s disease.
The television star, alongside her mum and dad, Gaby and Andrew, are supporting Memory Walk, Alzheimer’s Society’s flagship fundraising event taking place across England, Wales and Northern Ireland this autumn.
They have teamed up with the UK’s leading dementia charity to launch this year’s event which comprises of 34 flagship walks – including the first ever night walks in London, Liverpool and Cardiff – which will raise vital funds to improve care, fund research and create lasting change for people affected by dementia.
In a bid to encourage families to unite against dementia by taking part in their local Memory Walk, Davina and her parents, who will join this year’s Brighton Memory Walk, have each opened their hearts about the impact of dementia on their lives.
Davina, most recently seen on TV screens presenting Long Lost Family and The Jump, said:
“My dad has always been my rock. He’s way smarter than me, funnier, stronger. I’ve always slightly hero-worshipped him. So when he started saying funny things like, ”I took the overland train” and “Call me when your work is less explosive”, it didn’t take us long to all come together and ask each other if we should be concerned. The psychologist that first assessed him said that he could have been affected for a while – but he is so clever that he had come up with strategies. That’s my dad – see a problem, come up with a strategy.”
She added: “I have grieved the loss of my old dad. But we are forging a new relationship, a different one – one where perhaps he might need me more. Our dynamic has changed, but he’s still my dad.
‘“My dad is very charming, everyone he meets falls in love with him. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed. He still gives the best hugs and my kids adore him. Since he’s had Alzheimer’s, he has become calmer and kids respond very well to that.
‘“The person I do worry about is my mum. It’s a lot, watching the man you love struggle and I know it’s tiring for her. Each day is a blessing. We as a family are learning to adapt fast. Each step we discuss together.
‘“Taking part in the Memory Walk is a great way to come together and show each other support. As a family, we fundraised to support the work of Alzheimer’s Society. Seeing the number of people affected by dementia all coming together to support each other and fundraise was important.”
Speaking for the first time about developing dementia, Andrew said: “A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, aged 73. My family noticed the signs before I did.
‘“They tell me that occasional memory lapses associated with age became more frequent and more short-term. Then I began searching for words, everyday words that would normally have been easy to retrieve from my memory. That’s when I realised that this was more than just the natural decline in memory.
‘“I am blessed with a strong streak of optimism and there is no doubt that it has helped me come to terms with the diagnosis. I’m doing what I am told to do by the professionals: no more alcohol, plenty of exercise, plenty of reading and challenging my brain to keep things working as much as possible.
‘“When it was suggested that I might like to register to take part in research into Alzheimer’s disease I leapt at the chance. Why wouldn’t you want to do everything possible to help find a cure, or at least a way of slowing down progress of the disease. I am full of hope for the future. Maybe I will not reap the benefits of research but I feel sure future generations will do.
‘“As a family we think it is very important to join together and support the work of the Alzheimer’s Society. Memory Walk is a great place to start. It was inspiring seeing all those people coming together to support one another and fundraise for people affected by dementia and all of our futures.”
Speaking candidly about her experience and the importance of Memory Walk, Gaby said: “As anyone knows, if you have lived with someone for many years – 43 in our case – you will notice the subtlest of changes in their behaviour and personality.
“First, I noticed Andrew would repeat a story he had told only 15 minutes earlier and yet he had no recollection of the first occasion. Then I noticed he could not recall events that happened in the past few days. Eventually, he started struggling to find the words he wanted to say and to find everyday items around our home.
“Both our daughters, Davina and Milly, noticed a change and we all agreed it should be investigated as soon as possible. That would be my first word of advice, don’t dismiss the early signs and wait until it develops to a more advanced stage.
“The earlier you can catch it and medicate it the better it will be for the person with dementia and their family. Then all you can do is to accept it and commit to doing everything you can to manage it and beat it. Talk about it together on a regular basis. Don’t be embarrassed. Andrew is lucky because he is not at all embarrassed and tells everyone about his diagnosis.
“You will have some very frustrating times and your patience will be constantly tested. As a partner and carer you need to look out for yourself too. It’s sometimes hard to admit that you need help. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s inevitable at some point. Thank goodness Alzheimer’s Society provide plenty of advice and information. Taking part in Memory Walk is a wonderful, positive way to come together as a family. It’s comforting to see we are not alone.”
Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes said:
“Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walks are going from strength to strength each year – which is just as well because with dementia set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer, we must all come together to unite against it.
“Without your help, dementia can devastate lives, every pound raised by Memory Walk will help Alzheimer’s Society provide information and support, improve care, fund research and create lasting change for people affected. Walk for your family and friends affected by dementia. Walk for future generations. Until we find a cure, we will keep walking so dementia doesn’t win.”
Alzheimer’s Society is urgently calling on people to unite against dementia – register now at memorywalk.org.uk to find a walk near you.