Viv Hill, Alzheimer’s Research UK speaker
Viv lost her mum to early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2010. She was diagnosed at just 61. Viv and her family cared for her for as long as they could, and were heartbroken when she had to move to a nursing home for the last few months of her life. Viv became a speaker for Alzheimer’s Research UK in order to share her story.
I first got involved with Alzheimer’s Research UK almost two decades ago, in memory of my nan. My mum then also developed Alzheimer’s, aged just 61. I felt so hopeless knowing there wasn’t a cure and wanted to do something to help.
I volunteered to share my story on behalf of Alzheimer’s Research UK, and found that raising awareness about dementia helped me. I continue to share my experiences through speaking engagements and hope that I can be part of the process for finding a cure for dementia – this is the most fitting tribute to my mum I can think of.
Out and about
I have been involved with all sorts of projects thanks to Alzheimer’s Research UK. I have spoken at the European Parliament, at a ‘Science is Vital’ rally in front of 2,000 people and at The Alzheimer’s Show in London. I’ve also presented to various companies who wished to find out more about the charity and to Alzheimer’s Research UK researchers, to give them an idea of the effects dementia has on real families.
I often get nervous when I’m doing a speech, but I remind myself of why I do it. I think of my mother and of Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Prep and practice
When I agree to speak at an event, I make sure to prepare thoroughly. The team at Alzheimer’s Research UK give me all the information I need, such as the talk’s main subject, the angle needed and the audience. Then I make notes and practise in advance.
Most of the time, people want to know about your personal story and hear about how dementia affects real people. I usually discuss how my family and I dealt with the initial diagnosis, what my mum’s symptoms were, how we felt and how we coped.
Ever since I got involved with the charity, my employer has given me a huge amount of support. They have given me time off to volunteer as part of our ‘Helping Hands’ program, given me media advice, allowed me to be interviewed by the media on company premises and have even let me practise my presentations on them. I have also received awards of recognition for my volunteering. It’s brilliant to know that they recognise the value of what I do for the charity and understand why I do it.
Making a difference
I love being a speaker for Alzheimer’s Research UK. It’s great to be spreading awareness about dementia and research into it. I like reaching out to people and letting them know they’re not alone. It really feels like I’m making a difference.
Why you should become a Community Speaker
I would recommend being an Alzheimer’s Research UK speaker to anyone. The charity gives you all the support you need and you don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with. It takes away some of the helplessness you can feel when a loved one has Alzheimer’s. The feedback I get from audiences is amazing and it really makes you feel like you’re doing something positive and connecting with people who need it.