From heart-break to heart-warming
We are proud to be Research Charity Partner of this year’s Alzheimer’s Show. Ahead of the event, which takes place at London’s Olympia on Friday 16 May and Saturday 17, Carolyn Causton shares her experience of attending last year’s inaugural Show.
An Alzheimer’s “Show”? Max Pemberton of the Daily Telegraph said ‘An Alzheimer’s show does make sense‘ because show is just about the only word to describe the collection of talks and stands full of information around Alzheimer’s and dementia. Everything from the latest research information, to phone call screening machines, through legal advice to the admirable Admiral Nurses.
Last year was the first time the show had been run, and we didn’t really know what to expect. As charity partner, Alzheimer’s Research UK attended the show to provide an information stand where people could find out more about research and also pick up our dementia information leaflets. We also provided speakers who were experts on research, and supporters who shared their personal experiences. David Read, one of our Champion Supporters, sang his moving song ‘I know that I should know you’ and there were many tears – of recognition and compassion.
As one of the staff on our stand, I talked to many of the visitors – a myriad mix of people, including occupational therapists, trainee nurses and families both new to and familiar with the trials of dementia. Though every conversation was in its own way powerful there were a few that stood out.
The first was a man who approached the stand and asked for information about Alzheimer’s. I asked what his area of interest was. “I am a policeman,” he said. “We often get called out to help find people who have got lost, or we pick up wanderers. And sometimes we visit families who are just at breaking point. I want to find out more to help us manage these people properly.” Right then and there I found my hero for the year.
I met people who were desperate for information, including a family with a son the same age as mine; the father diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. I met carers, families and friends. Every single story, every exchange we had, there was heart-break. The impact of dementia is huge – not just on those with the diseases, but on everyone around them.
Another conversation that really stood out for me was with a young lady from South Africa. She is a dementia carer here in the UK, but her main ambition is to go back to South Africa, to the townships where she came from, and educate people about dementia being a disease. What she told me was shocking – that people with dementia are considered to be possessed – affected by witchcraft. It was almost unbelievable to think that in this day and age people do not understand about Alzheimer’s and attribute it to witchcraft, but even more shocking to be told that many are killed through fear and misunderstanding.
I may work in an office, but thanks to events like the Alzheimer’s Show I do get the chance to meet amazing people – the scientists who are committed to finding the answers, and most importantly, the people we are working for. If people ask me what I do for a job, I tell them ‘I’m helping to defeat dementia’.