Ai Lyn Tan explains why she's taking on the Great Scottish Run to raise money for Alzheimer's Society and shares the story behind her mum Bee Foon's dementia diagnosis.
Almost seven years ago my beautiful mum Bee Foon passed away, aged 70. It was the end of a long goodbye: she had severe advanced Alzheimer’s disease for 15 years.
Mum was a nurse. She did 'everything' and looked after all of us. She was the boss at home - from doing all the housework to managing the household finance.
She was very creative and artistic, from her cooking to gardening, crafts and knitting. She would also drive me to running races and run me a bath after.
Mum always wanted to 'go home'
In her mid-50s she started with short-term memory loss, forgetting things, and being unable to drive herself home.
We lost her in a big multi-storey shopping complex once. I remember the huge relief of finding her, many hours of panicking later, following a search party.
Mum went through phases of non-stop crying and frightening periods of physical violence.
Her weight fluctuated as she would eat everything, or not at all. She would always be wanting “to go home”.
She didn't know how to step into the car, so we stopped going out.
The Alzheimer's disease progressed rapidly and her mental age regressed. She stopped recognising any of us. She lost all her functional ability and was fully dependent on my dad.
My brave dad gave up his job to look after her. He had to start learning how to cook when she couldn't anymore. She then lost the ability to eat.
Dementia is not just about forgetting
Once when I was helping mum in the toilet, she said: “What’s your name? I’d like to tell my daughter how helpful you’ve been.” At least she knew she had a daughter.
It’s a devastating disease, with huge impact on family and friends who have to go through gut-wrenching experiences. It’s not just about forgetting things.
This is why I’m running two half marathons this year for Alzheimer’s Society. I believe in helping them support crucial scientific research and much-needed therapy, and in supporting the family and friends who have to bear the burden.
Taking on the Great Scottish Run
This year was my seventeenth Great North Run – my eighth for Alzheimer’s Society – and it was the hottest I’ve ever done. Now I’m taking on the Great Scottish Run.
I often donate to charities. I think of it this way – if I can do without that £1, £5, £10 or more, I’m happy to know it’s gone to good causes. I hope the people who donate to my runs feel the same way.
Every time someone sponsors me, I get a little flutter, and feel touched that they care. This really boosts my confidence, and I believe that there is so much love and kindness in the world to share.
So far Ai Lyn Tan has raised more than £4,000 for Alzheimer's Society by running to support us.
Donate to support Ai Lyn's run
Support Ai Lyn Tan as she races for Alzheimer's Society in the Great Scottish Run by donating through her JustGiving page.