Daughter documents hero dad’s Alzheimer’s journey on Instagram with funny and heartwarming posts
By Philip Tubby | Friday 16 June 2017
Doting daughter Mariel Kirton uses Instagram to tackle the stigma of dementia by documenting precious moments from her dad’s life.
The 21-year-old’s life was turned upside down when her dad Ray was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, aged only 52. However rather than dwell on the difficult times she chose to share her dad’s bravery and determination to be happy, inspiring others with heartwarming Instagram posts daily on her endalzheimers_ray account. The posts have attracted more than 1,100 followers.
Mariel explained how a disciplinary procedure at the company he worked for triggered alarm bells for his family as he was meticulous and always took pride in his job as a manager of a medical sales team.
“My dad Ray was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s seven years ago. He was told at the age of 52, with a mind that still worked almost perfectly, that slowly he was going to lose all his memories, all his abilities and all his sense.
“We first noticed something was wrong when he was put through disciplinary procedures as issues at work were mistaken for carelessness – my mum knew this was not in his character, and initially Dad was misdiagnosed with depression.
“I remember being in his room while he was taking his anti-depressants, when he said ‘I just don’t get it, because I’m so happy’. Eventually, eight months after taking sick leave, we got the devastating news that Dad had Alzheimer’s.”
Mariel and her family have watched Ray deteriorate from the ‘hard-working professional’ he was before his diagnosis to now, aged 58, being unable to drive, hold a conversation or even remember the names of the people closest to him – things most people take for granted.
That is why she felt so strongly about sharing every positive moment she and her wider family experienced with her dad – to show his bravery in the face of a brain disease with no cure.
“Having seen his grandparents go through it, he knew exactly what was going to happen to him. I will never comprehend how brave he is, for always staying so positive – I know this is for us – and I just had to document his journey with Alzheimer’s, to show the world that you can still be happy despite living with the disease.
“For now, my dad’s personality shines through despite his Alzheimer’s. His perception of reality and TV is muddled, and he’s so polite to everyone on TV, as he always has been in reality – he would stand up the whole time while watching the Pride of Britain awards, out of respect. He gets changed into his shirt and tie when the Queen is on TV “in case she sees me”, and has to take a shower before X Factor because ‘he’s the presenter’. He thanks every weatherman and woman who ‘all have an eye for him’ and every member of The Chase panel, as they introduce themselves.”
Mariel’s Instagram account captures Ray’s daily activities from his love for singing and dancing to precious moments with his grandchildren and his interaction with favourite TV personalities who he believes are in the room with him.
She appreciates that while her family feel ‘lucky’ for the way her dad’s condition has progressed she knows that this will change in the long-term so is keen to raise as much money for Alzheimer’s Research UK as possible to find a cure.
“We are so lucky that he is still, for the most part, the happy and loving person he always has been. Unfortunately, his temperament is changing, with a bit less patience and a bit more frustration, and we know this will only get worse. Not only that, but the scary reality is that my dad is not an elderly grandfather – in fact, he is still a son.
“That is why I am supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK and ran the Leeds Half Marathon for them recently. The work of Alzheimer’s Research UK is so important, because more than anything we need a cure for this evil disease which causes endless heartache.
“Additionally, I want to encourage people not to stigmatise people with Alzheimer’s. Although parts of them are going, they are still the person you once loved, so please make the effort to be there for people living with Alzheimer’s and their superhero carers.”
Around 4% of people with Alzheimer’s are under 65 like Ray. This rare form of the disease affects people in their 40s, 50s and early 60s.
Tim Parry, Director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Mariel’s story is inspirational – tackling the stigma surrounding dementia is a challenge we face every day. Mariel has found a great way of sharing her family’s experience of dementia and capture the changes her family are presented with every day with heartwarming posts on Instagram. Her posts not only raise awareness surrounding Alzheimer’s disease but also give a message of hope.
“We believe, as Mariel does, that by funding world class research we can find treatments and ultimately a cure for the diseases that cause dementia.”
To support Mariel’s fundraising efforts or find out more about her story, visit https://alzheimersresearchuk.org/mariel-and-ray-kirton/ and follow Ray’s journey on Instagram: www.instagram.com/endalzheimers_ray/
Watch our video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwfj6ZXH0tc