Cycling with dementia
Our keen cyclist blogger has helped his friend who has dementia to keep enjoying cycling safely. He shares his experience on our Blog.
When he was approaching 70, about five years ago, my friend of very many years began to show the first signs of dementia and now, unfortunately, he is well and truly incapacitated with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
He now can’t form his words, has great difficulty in walking and can’t carry out simple tasks. His wife is his permanent carer and sees to his every need, an onerous responsibility that she uncomplainingly performs 24 hours a day.
However, to everybody’s amazement, including his medical advisers, he can still ride his bike reasonably well and once a week I take him for an hour long bicycle ride through pleasant parks and along a paved ex-railway track. As long as I don’t stray more than a few yards in front of him, so that he can keep me constantly in view, he can follow me along traffic free paths without losing his balance or becoming distressed.
At a leisurely pace we cover between seven and eight miles and he loves it, he calls out an occasional cheery ‘good morning’ to passers-by, a brief flashback to his former gregarious self. He is able to apply the brakes and slow down or stop when necessary, and can adequately steer his wide-tyred mountain bike. One thing he can’t do is change gear so I ensure he is in his middle gear when we set off and he usually manages to keep it that way.
Maybe there are some readers who have friends or relatives in a similar situation? I know of course that dementia affects people in different ways and cycling might be beyond some but if they have been cyclists in the past and have given up because of their condition maybe, just maybe, they could get back on their bikes like my friend. I’m convinced that he feels better after our rides, it’s an achievement, he can do it, it’s good exercise for him and a brief but welcome break for his wife. He always gives me a man hug afterwards, so it’s worth it to me too.
Cycling certainly is for everybody, well almost everybody.