Hugh Dennis, Rickie Haywood-Williams, Charlie Gibson and Sophie McKenna, Charlie’s girlfriend

Why our celebrity supporters are backing the 'Support the Supporters' campaign

In March, some of our celebrity supporters came along to watch England’s men in the third Alzheimer’s Society International and discussed why they're backing our 'Support the Supporters' campaign. 

This year, Alzheimer’s Society and The FA launched the Support The Supporters campaign to help increase awareness of dementia symptoms and encourage fans to take the first steps in seeking a diagnosis. 

Rickie Haywood-Williams

My Dad was my hero growing up. He was a really skilled, accomplished carpenter. He’d always want to come over to my house to fix things. But I started to notice that he was struggling with simple jobs, tasks that he could have done with his eyes closed in years gone by.  

As a family we watched him and thought “why can’t he do these things?” It was confusing for us because he was still him, but then couldn’t do these simple tasks. It led to me feeling frustrated that he couldn’t do these things and as a family we didn’t understand why.  

Rickie Haywood-Williams and his Dad Geoff Williams

Rickie and his dad, Geoff

Getting a dementia diagnosis

Getting a diagnosis wasn’t straightforward. I started to notice changes in Dad in 2019 but as he lived alone, he was able to laugh off any mistakes he made or turn them into a joke. It was hard to see how his dementia was affecting him day to day. 

Then in 2020 Dad had a sort of psychosis episode – he thought he was seeing things that weren’t there, he experienced a situation that just didn’t happen. Off the back of that we were able to call an ambulance and get him seen that day and once the professionals saw the situation he was in, they admitted him to hospital.  

This was at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, so it was a really scary experience for him and all the family. But ultimately it was the best thing that could have happened to him as he was kept in hospital for about 6 weeks and was ultimately diagnosed with vascular dementia.  

A diagnosis meant getting help and support

The diagnosis meant that as a family we could get him the right care and support. We were able to get him into a really good care home and even though, because of the Covid lockdown rules, we couldn’t visit him and he couldn’t come out to see us, we knew he was getting the care and support he needed and ultimately he was more settled. 

The family had peace of mind knowing that our Dad had all his needs looked after – he was eating, he had someone to help him with his care – with things like brushing his hair and cutting his finger and toe nails.  

It also meant that when we could eventually visit him, we could just enjoy spending time with him. We could enjoy our time with Dad again. 

Rickie holding an England scarf with the Alzheimer's Society logo on it

Hugh Dennis

This campaign, Support the Supporters, and Alzheimer’s Society’s partnership with The FA is crucial in raising awareness that dementia is the UK’s biggest killer.

So many people who have dementia are living without a diagnosis because they think it’s a normal sign of ageing or they’re frightened about getting a diagnosis.  

But it's only through getting a diagnosis that people can get the right support and plan for the future. 

Once you have that diagnosis it doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the things you love. Quite the opposite in fact. Once you have that diagnosis you can ask for more support to help you to carry on doing the things you love.

Hugh wearing an England scarf with the Alzheimer's Society logo on it

England wearing no named shirts

England players wore nameless shirts in the second half to represent how people living with dementia lose precious memories, even the names of their favourite football players.

Jude Bellingham in a nameless number 10 shirt with his back turned

Jude Bellingham in a nameless shirt

The no named shirts shows what dementia can be like. It’s when things that you once remembered very easily, like footballers' names, slip away from you. It also raises awareness of just how common dementia is in society and how we need to take steps to help those who are living with dementia and those who care for and support them.

Charlie Gibson

My grandad Barry is a huge football fan. It’s through football and Alzheimer’s Society’s partnership with the FA that I’ve been able to share our story. 

Back in January I did a video sharing my story which was used to kick off the Support the Supporters campaign, raising awareness around how important it is to get a diagnosis.  

Knowing that one in three with dementia don’t yet have a diagnosis is unbelievable and something that I really want to change. It’s so important to make everyone aware; to increase understanding and remove the stigma so people aren’t afraid to seek out a diagnosis.  

Watching England at Wembley

My grandad would be amazed at me being at Wembley cheering on England! He’d be so proud and happy that I was here. I got to enjoy Wembley with him when Manchester City won the FA cup a few years ago. We celebrated this success together, so Wembley holds special memories for me and my Grandad.

Sport should be unforgettable

We're working across multiple sports to help fans better understand symptoms and take the first step in seeking an all-important diagnosis if they, or a loved one, may be experiencing signs of dementia.

Learn more about our work in sport

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