Tommy was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2011 when he was in his 60s. He reflects on how keeping active helped him cope with his dementia diagnosis and how he’s had to adapt to life in lockdown.
My family are the most important thing in the world to me. I’ve been married to my wonderful wife Joyce since 1970 and we have a son, Martin, and a daughter, Jane, and we’ve got our lovely granddaughter, Freya, too.
I’ve always loved football, my team are Everton, as well as playing golf and of course enjoying the odd pint with my mates. I spent all my working life in transport as a train driver, then as a train interface manager for the north west and finally as a Rail Compliance Manager.
I was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s when I was in my 60s back in 2011. After my diagnosis, I found that with dementia it’s not memory loss that is the only symptom. My mood and spatial awareness are sometimes affected, to the point where it can be tempting to sit with my dementia and do nothing at all.
‘There are days when we call it the black dog, when dementia comes and sits beside you and it doesn’t want you to do anything.’
But you’ve got to get up and get active, even when you don’t want to. I’ve found that exercise is a great way of passing the time, helping relieve stress, helping relieve anxieties. I’ve figured out so many ways to keep moving and stay on my toes. Whether I’m doing a bit of karaoke in the living room or a spontaneous workout in the garden, it all really does help me!
Adapting in lockdown
I’ve had to be creative and adapt to keep moving during the coronavirus pandemic and in lockdown as I wasn’t able to get out as much unfortunately. So, I’ve created a homemade driving range in the back garden out of my wife’s spare duvets. I’ve added some targets and I use that to practise my chipping.
I also try to follow work out videos and walk on the treadmill, just looking for different ways to stay active. I like anything that keeps me outdoors or up on my feet and having a bit of fun! You’ve got to make it fun when doing exercise around the house. I could never understand how people got pleasure from running but I can feel it kicking in on the treadmill.
‘There’s nothing better than a feel-good feeling of being able to get out and about.’
Exercise is such a great way of passing the time and helps to relieve stress and anxieties. It releases all the endorphins and gives you the feel-good factor. For me, the word ‘can’t’ doesn’t exist. I hear it so many times, but I can do it, it keeps me going and even a smile or a dance can help.
We Are Undefeatable
Tommy is supporting the We Are Undefeatable campaign which helps people living with dementia and other long-term health conditions to keep active and enjoy doing more movement as part of daily life. Find out more about We Are Undefeatable and resources to help you keep moving.