75-year-old Peter Smith is challenging himself to cycle 75 laps of his local velodrome every 75 days to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society. Here, Peter and his wife, Hilary, reflect on how dementia affects their lives.
When I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago my initial reaction was surprise and horror. I knew little about the disease and its likely effect on myself and my wife, Hilary.
Despite the memory tests I’d been having, I was still acting as a judge on tribunal cases. I felt I was fine mentally apart from the difficulty I’ve always had in remembering names. All in all, far from my own mental picture of a frail person with dementia.
It was my two daughters who are both doctors that first noticed the signs. They referred me to the Memory Service as they felt that I was becoming forgetful.
I suspect my daughters did me a big favour, as my timely diagnosis led to me taking medication at an early stage.
I’d also been diagnosed with terminal cancer four years before. I think this made it easier for me to be completely open with family and friends about my subsequent dementia diagnosis.
Keeping active and involved
From what I’ve read about dementia, I believe that my own ongoing activity is helping to mitigate the effects of the disease. I’d already been singing as a bass in the Croydon Male Voice Choir for many years, and I’d recently also gained entry to the London Welsh Rugby Male Voice Choir.
The social contact I gain from continuing to attend regular choir practices is fantastic. I’ve had the opportunity of singing in a range of public venues and cathedrals – including the London Olympics Closing Ceremony!
My predictable memory problems are offset by the fact that I’m surrounded by colleagues whose singing reminds me of the words and music.
Hilary and I are now regular attenders at Alzheimer’s Society Singing for the Brain, through which we’ve performed at the House of Lords.
My focus on fundraising
I decided that for my 75th birthday I was going to cycle 75 laps of the Herne Hill velodrome. I then decided to do it every 75 days throughout my birthday year.
It’s quite exciting that for my 75th birthday I’ll have a project running throughout the whole year.
Doing this is very good for my self-esteem. It’s given me something to focus on.
I wanted to do something nice for Alzheimer’s Society. I have seen the benefit to people with Alzheimer's from the work that the Society does.
I haven’t set myself a target. I just want to raise as much money as I can.
Peter’s Alzheimer’s has greatly impacted on my life. I’ve needed to take over many of the ‘life admin’ functions that in the past we’d have shared.
In addition, it’s usually been me who’s dug out background information, found appropriate activities and generally supported Peter’s social life.
When I’m out for the day, I always leave Peter a sheet headed with the date and day of the week and a reminder about where I am. It includes a list of the day’s outside commitments, travel hints and things Peter needs to remember to do.
When Peter was first diagnosed I found the Alzheimer’s Society’s Carer Information and Support Programme (CrISP) extremely useful.
It gave me an idea of what might lie ahead and where to turn for help.
I was also introduced to others in a similar situation. Since then I’ve found my monthly Time-for-Carers group an invaluable source of encouragement and support.
Support and celebrate Peter
Cheer for Peter at Herne Hill Velodrome! His next ride is at 10am on 25 April.
Join him on his final ride at 10am on 28 June to celebrate Peter's amazing achievement.
You can also sponsor Peter’s rides through JustGiving.