Zohra's husband, Afzal, has vascular dementia. He's also a huge cricket fan. Here, Zohra describes how important the sport continues to be for them both, and why they think dementia research is the key to a better future for those affected.
My husband, Afzal, first had a diagnosis of young-onset dementia in 1988, while in his early 50s.
Just one year later, he had to take an early retirement because the Medical Defence Union would not insure him, and doctors cannot practice without being a member of a union.
Afzal sought an initial diagnosis because he was seeing patients in the morning but by the afternoon could not remember who he’d seen.
He was then diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2014.
Afzal had a long career as a GP before his diagnosis
A passion for cricket from a young age
Afzal was a keen cricketer during his university days in Pakistan, where he studied medicine. He has been playing cricket here, in England, since 1963 and kept going until he turned 70.
He even helped set up a cricket team with the other medics and staff in the hospital where he worked, which was in Peterborough.
They called themselves ‘The Grim Reapers’, and Afzal was a wicketkeeper and batsmen.
Cricket is a lifeline
We have Bookham Cricket Club behind our house and pre-covid and lockdowns, we were both scorers for them.
Although, Afzal’s attention span wasn’t up to scoring the entire match, so he would sit there for long periods while I did it.
The sport has been a lifelong passion of his!
Dealing with stigma in our community
There is a stigma against anything connected with issues of the brain in the South Asian community, as their attitudes can be a little bit Victorian.
To us, dementia is not an issue which should be hidden away and swept under the carpet.
The Asian community needs to catch up on this.
Cricket should be unforgettable
Day three of the Fifth Men’s Test on the 29 July will be dedicated to Alzheimer’s Society for the first time.
Afzal often tries to hide the fact he has it and it is probably why he avoids society.
Before we attended the Dementia Friendly Match between Surrey and Kent at the Oval in June last year, I cannot remember when my husband last went to the cinema or a sports stadium.
It was probably 25 years ago as going out is very difficult.
Going out can be difficult for Afzal, who often tries to hide his dementia
The importance of dementia research
Afzal is part of a dementia research programme run by Imperial College (part of the UK Dementia Research Institute) called Time for Dementia.
This programme is designed to create a new generation of healthcare professionals who are more aware and understanding of dementia.
Monitors have been set up in our home to look at changes in behaviour and sleep patterns in those with dementia.
I think research is so important. I know our work won’t help us, but it is a good thing to try and help those who come afterwards.
Zohra and Afzal are using their experiences to aid vital dementia research
Great cricket should be unforgettable. But for thousands of people living with dementia, sadly this isn’t the case.
By donating to Alzheimer’s Society, you will be making a huge difference to the lives of people living with dementia, funding life-changing support and pioneering research.