Lifelong Liverpool fan, Alan, sees Anfield as a place he can find community and channel difficult emotions around caring for his mum, Jackie, who has dementia.
Mum had already taken early retirement from a job she loved because of health issues, but by the end of 2019 I noticed things like she was forgetting her car keys. She kept using the word ‘dipsy’ to describe her behaviour.
Picking up early signs of dementia
Other people might have dismissed this, but for me it was a red flag.
She was forgetting where she’d parked her car and one day got it wedged on the drive, so I asked her to give up driving.
She then started to lose her balance and fall when she was at her flat alone. I phoned the GP and they told me to take her to A&E.
At the hospital it was initially thought she’d had a stroke, but that was ruled out by a blood test. Mum was sent home on the basis she could string sentences together, but we knew something was wrong. It was the start of Covid, so services were stretched.
She later had a scan which detected fluid around her brain. We were told this was causing the balance problems, so they didn’t do further investigations.
Mum had to wait months for an operation to put in a shunt for the fluid to be drained, but her memory loss got worse after the procedure.
Finally getting mum's diagnosis
We went back to the GP and mum was referred to the mental health team. There were attempts to do memory tests over the phone and by video call, but they just made her confused and anxious, so someone came to mum’s flat to do them.
In October 2020 she was diagnosed with mixed dementia. It didn’t come as a shock to me, but mum was devastated. She had been talking herself out of it saying she was alright and was coping when she wasn’t.
Me and my partner Jackie look after mum, going back and forth to her flat to care for her. Nothing can prepare you for what it’s like. It never stops. We’re only now starting to get support from social services, a few hours a week to give us some respite.
Getting help from Alzheimer's Society
It was hard to get advice at first, so I turned to the Alzheimer’s Society who were fantastic and have been so supportive.
Our Dementia Adviser Gill took me under her wing, explaining things from power of attorney to how things might change in my world as well as mum’s.
When I am worried about whether I am really helping my mum, Gill helps me realise I am doing a good job and there is no right or wrong way to cope.
Finding a safe-haven in supporting Liverpool
One thing that has helped me over the last couple of years is supporting Liverpool. Since I was a kid, going to football games was the only place you could go and let your emotions out, scream and shout, without people looking at you.
When you go through something like this you bottle things up. Being at Liverpool games has helped me release an awful lot of that. When I’ve been through bad times with my mum, I’ve felt so much better after going to the game.
We don’t even have to win, it’s just being in the crowd and singing with everyone that is so special.
I have some fantastic memories of my mum and Liverpool. When I was a teenager, she used to do health promotion work at the club.
She knew how important the club was in my life. She organised for Brian Hall to show me around the stadium and got me a signed ball. I got a signed photo of John Barnes too.
Anfield is a second home to me. It is my safe haven. At night games when the floodlights are on, it’s a special place.
For people going through the same experiences with a loved one with dementia, I hope they have a safe haven too. I think its important people have that break away, whether it be sport or another hobby or passion.
Sport should be unforgettable
Through our work with sport, Alzheimer's Society is making a difference for all people who, like Alan and Jackie, are affected by dementia.