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Woking teen stepping out for mum who got dementia at 29

Published 16 September 2013

Louise Bottrill

A teenager from Sheerwater in Surrey is taking part in this year's Alzheimer's Society Memory Walk for her mum, who was diagnosed with dementia aged 29.

Louise Bottrill's mum, now 42, has been living with the condition for 14 years. Louise said:

'As I was only around two years old at the time it's just something I have grown up with, for as long as I can remember my mum has had dementia, I don't really know anything different.'

Louise, who lives with her older sister who is 20, continues:

'It is still difficult at times but as I have no recollection of living with my mum, I get on with life.'

Louise's mum, Zoe, who is also completely deaf, first started to show the signs of dementia in her late 20s. It was a former partner who first noticed the symptoms such as confusion and forgetfulness. Zoe's mum Julie explains more:

'Zoe's boyfriend was quite controlling, she seemed quite afraid of him, one day there was an incident and he had Zoe committed, while she was in hospital doctors carried out tests, but they could not pinpoint what was wrong, they even tried sending her to a mental health clinic.'

Zoe was then discharged from hospital and the girls lived with her for a while, but she soon began to deteriorate and it became clear she could not cope. Julie explains one of the incidents that got the family worried:

'The three generations of daughters were all supposed to be going on holiday together, but Zoe decided she did not want to go, so she stayed with my mum (Ruby). Myself and the two kids went away, but Zoe forgot where they were. She kept wandering off saying she was looking for them and couldn't find them.'

In 1999, aged just 27, Zoe was sent to Abraham Cowley Hospital in Wimbledon, a specialist neurological hospital. Doctors carried out tests and eventually Zoe was diagnosed with dementia, although doctors could not say why it had happened to someone so young. Julie said:

'We were just told that's how it is; no one could really answer my questions. I have felt all the emotions sadness, anger, frustration but most of all I feel sad, it's a living nightmare, I visit what looks like my daughter but it's not her, not the person she was.'

Zoe now lives in a care home in Ashford, she is on a special early onset ward, but Zoe is by far the youngest person there.

Louise, who recently started studying beauty at Farnham College visits her mum every six weeks and on special occasions. She said:

'She is in the late stages now; she sleeps a lot of and cannot really move the lower half of her body. She doesn't know who I am but I still go and see her.'

The condition has struck the family again, Louise's great grandmother Ruby, who is 87, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's four and a half years ago. The incredibly brave teenager now wants to do something for Alzheimer's Society, she said:

'Even though it's too late for my mum I want to help the charity as they help other people living with dementia. They have also helped our gran after Ruby was diagnosed with the condition.'

Julie says she is incredibly proud of her granddaughter who signed up for the Memory Walk of her own accord and has been working hard fundraising. The teenager is hoping by doing the walk and telling all her friends about the event she can help increase awareness, something the whole family are keen on. Louise said:

'Raising awareness is so important, people are always surprised to find out my mum has dementia as she is so young, I want to show people that it can happen to anyone, it's not just something that affects older people.'

Dr Doug Brown Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society said:

'It is estimated around 17,000 people in the UK are living with dementia under the age of 65, but to be diagnosed at such a young age is incredibly rare. If you are worried about any problems with memory, at any age, you should always go to your GP. This particular case is made even more difficult by the fact that Zoe is deaf, which makes traditional verbal dementia testing methods difficult to use. Alzheimer's Society is funding a research project at the University of Manchester exploring dementia within the deaf community.'

Louise and Megan will be doing the walk in Dorking on 22 September, for the third year running it will be supported by Bupa Care Homes. For every person that completes the final Memory Mile, Bupa Care Homes will donate £2.50 to Alzheimer's Society.

To donate to Louise, visit her JustGiving page. To register for the walk in Dorking, visit the Memory Walk website.  

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