Alzheimer’s: An Engineer’s View

For two years my family and friends had been asking me to write an account of the journey I made with Joan through Alzheimer’s disease. It wasn’t until Chris Pomfrett, a neurophysiologist, and I discussed the end product that he persuaded me to write the story and he would intersperse the probable neurological reasons for the symptoms. Given my natural logic in discovering ordinary solutions to cope with the extraordinary challenges of the illness we would then have a small book of use to families and carers and to healthcare professionals given the scientific inserts. A nurse or GP will see a patient for a few minutes in the surgery but to get a holistic view of the patient’s life could make a tremendous difference.


Fred and Joan Walker

The development of Alzheimer’s disease is a slow, insidious process and the early symptoms go unnoticed or are excused by family and friends. My wife, Joan, was no exception and it wasn’t until she had a series of falls followed by visits to A&E that she was referred to the Falls Clinic. After a scan they noticed irregularities in her brain and transferred her to the Memory Clinic where she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease with Parkinsonian symptoms. By that time the disease was established in her brain and it was too late for medication. To come to terms with the realisation that we had many years of slow disintegration of mind and body was extremely traumatic. However, I decided I would nurse her at home until her death, which occurred ten years later.

At the start of the journey you will have a lifestyle that is normal, but problems will arise and normal will change.

An engineer’s view

As the disease progressed everyday activities became increasingly difficult: dressing and undressing, moving from room to room, bathing or getting into the car. I am an ex-design and trouble-shooting engineer and as such, needed maths, science, patience and logic to be able to do my job. In caring for Joan I needed that patience and logic to work out alternative methods of completing day-to-day tasks.

Before starting any task I would go through it step by step in my mind’s eye taking into consideration Joan’s abilities and disabilities. If the normal method wouldn’t work then I would have to devise a Plan B. I realised that to embark on Plan A without knowing the outcome would result in disaster. For example, moving from room to room became impossible because her damaged brain could not process the different colours and textures beyond the threshold and she would become frightened and refuse to go through. The alternative was to sit her in a wheelchair, place her hands in her lap, keep eye contact, talk to her and propel her through backwards. Once in the new area that then became the norm but she would be unable to return to the previous room without the use of the wheelchair.

Advice to fellow travellers

fred-walker-book-cover2The most useful advice I could give would be that at the start of the journey you will have a lifestyle that is normal. Problems will arise and normal will change, it will become more difficult but one adapts until the new situation becomes normal and so it goes on forever changing and evolving as the disease spreads through the brain. Normal continues to get harder and will escalate to a new level but in every case one adapts again and again as normal becomes more and more difficult. By the time you reach the end of the journey and look back you will be amazed how far you have come, how much you have learned and how much you have achieved. Also, remember that you are not alone; there are many thousands of fellow travellers.

No one should have to make the journey through Alzheimer’s disease, not as a patient nor as a carer, yet there are 820,000 people nationally diagnosed with some form of dementia who are doing just that. Since my wife’s death I have worked to raise awareness of this disease and to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK. To that end Chris and I paid for the publication and printing of the book so that when a copy is bought that money also goes to Alzheimer’s Research UK as a second donation.

Alzheimer’s: An Engineer’s View, published by Stellar Books.
The e-book is now available at £1.53 or $2.99.

Hard copy priced at £7.50 and can be ordered online at


  1. Mrs Leslie Heads on 21st August 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I think it is more important to look at the cause of dementia and if you go to youtube
    Pilots, Doctors & Scientists Tell Truth about Chemtrails [Excerpts] you will find it. I am 68 and have never known anything like it. I worked with the elderly for many years and never once saw anything like it. If its a disease then there must be a cause. What people need to know is that if there is a sickness going round certain companies dont want you to find the cause because they are making too much money on the cure.

  2. Lesley McLean on 3rd September 2016 at 12:03 pm

    I am moved to make a comment on this lovely chap’s story about his much-loved wife.

    I agreed with every point he made about Alzheimer’s, having lost my dear Mum to the disease in late June this year. Fred’s story rang true, Mum was a very positive, lady who lived her life to the full – an accomplished writer, member of many Associations & Societies, a keen gardener, a great Mum…someone who was quiet and calm in nature, but with hidden depths and to this end, our family is hoping to publish one (if not all three) of Mum’s unfinished novels that are in her attic room,…. she had many, many short stories and articles published in the popular womens’ magazines of the day and it seems that while her writing is with us, she is never that far away!

    My only advice to anyone even suspecting that a loved one has the early signs of dementia, get it checked out a s a p , as getting medication from the onset helped our family tremendously, but sadly, after a fews years, it’s effect does seem to wear off.

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About the author

Fred Walker

Fred’s wife, Joan, had a four year struggle with Alzheimer’s and died in 2010, aged 70. Since then he has been a tireless campaigner, raising awareness of the need for more investment into research for this devastating disease. Fred has involved his local community in fundraising events and has raised thousands of pounds for our world-class dementia research. A retired engineer, he has also written a book entitled ‘Alzheimer’s: An Engineer’s View’, with all proceeds being donated to Alzheimer’s Research UK.