Family’s history of Alzheimer’s inspires mum-of-two to run half marathon for dementia research


By Philip Tubby | Wednesday 28 February 2018

A woman from Northern Ireland whose family have been affected by a rare inherited form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is taking on a half marathon to raise money for dementia research.

Kerry Bryson

Kerry Bryson, from Dundonald, near Belfast, is one of around 300 runners signed up to run the inaugural London Landmarks Half Marathon on March 25 for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The 37-year-old mum-of-two was inspired to support the UK’s leading dementia research charity as many members of her family on her mum’s side have been affected by familial Alzheimer’s disease.

Familial Alzheimer’s disease, which is caused by a faulty gene, is very rare accounting for less than one per cent of all cases of Alzheimer’s. Someone who has a parent affected by familial Alzheimer’s has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting the gene and if they have it they are almost certain to develop the condition at around the same age.

One of Kerry’s uncles passed away aged 57, while another is in a dementia care unit aged 54. Her grandfather died aged 54, while six of his eight siblings also died in their 50s. Kerry’s mum, Selina Neill, did not inherit the faulty gene, so Kerry also doesn’t have it.

Kerry said:

“Alzheimer’s has always been a part of our family. My grandad died when I was five and now it’s affecting my mum’s generation. One of my uncles has died while another is in the latter stages of the disease.

“Seeing their decline with the disease was very sad to watch. It’s as if their brains closed down, they forgot how to do things. It’s like they forgot how to live.

“Although it’s a relief that my mum doesn’t have the gene, it has still been really tough for her. She had to nurse her dad and then her two brothers.

“As she chose not to find out if she had the gene, we had to wait to see if she developed symptoms in her late 40s. It was a very worrying time having that hanging over your head. Everyone was on alert and it would be very suffocating for her. If she did something like putting an item in the wrong cupboard in the kitchen, you’d worry that she had it.”

Kerry’s mum, an aunt and two uncles were involved in pioneering research which helped identify the faulty gene. They went to University College London once a year for over 10 years from the mid-90s for various tests and scans.

Kerry said:

“I’m very proud that my mum played a role in important research and was able do something positive out of something so horrible.

“It’s vital to support dementia research so future generations don’t have to go through what my family have been through.”

Kerry has already smashed her £350 fundraising target, with her total on around £600. To sponsor her go to

Kenneth Foreman, Senior Sporting Events Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Kerry’s story shows the devastating effect dementia can have on a family.

“The vital funds raised by her and the hundreds of runners taking on the London Landmarks Half Marathon for Alzheimer’s Research UK will power world-class dementia research projects and help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.”

If you are inspired to join the fight against dementia, Alzheimer’s Research UK is looking for volunteers to set up a fundraising group in Belfast.

The UK’s leading dementia research charity is looking for people with a range of skills to help set up the group, which will aim to raise vital funds and awareness across the city.

Members can get involved in a variety of ways, from getting stuck into fundraising challenges, to representing Alzheimer’s Research UK at events and spreading the word about the charity within their local communities.

For more information contact Matt Clarke, Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Regional Fundraising Officer for Northern Ireland on 07584 657 587 or email

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK visit


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Philip Tubby