'For Jean' - my £1 million donation to Alzheimer's Society

Malcolm Joyce's £1 million donation is the largest amount ever donated to Alzheimer's Society by an individual. Read Malcolm's story, his reasons for donating, and the difference it's making for people affected by dementia. 

Malcolm and Jean

‘She was the love of my life,’ Malcolm Joyce said of his late-wife, Jean. The pair were married for 58 years. For the last decade of her life, Jean lived with Alzheimer’s

In 2016, Malcolm made the extraordinary donation of £1 million to Alzheimer’s Society. This is the largest sum ever given by an individual in the charity’s 42-year history. 

In memory of Jean, this gift has made an exceptional contribution towards advancing crucial research and providing vital services for people living with dementia.

‘After she died, I was completely lost,’ Malcolm said when he made the donation. ‘I’m sure she’d be very proud of me today.’

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‘If I can save just one couple’

For seven years after Jean’s diagnosis in 2008, Malcolm cared for his wife at home. When he was diagnosed with a life-limiting cancer, Jean needed to be moved into a care home. ‘I used to visit her at the nursing home every day,’ he said, ‘and never left until she was asleep.’ 

Towards the end of her life, Jean lost a lot of her memories, and she would often forget who her husband was.

‘I remember one time, quite close to the end,’ Malcolm said, ‘when I put my arm around her and pulled her close to me and she whispered, “that’s nice”. That brought me some comfort.’

After several difficult years, Jean passed away in 2015. 

Influenced by his experience as a carer, Malcolm wanted to help make the journey through dementia easier for other people. He wanted his donation to go towards both innovative research and immediate support.

‘If I can save just one couple from going through what we went through,’ he said, ‘it will have been worth it.’

Innovating care through research

Dementia research is sorely underfunded, and every researcher in the field is unspeakably valuable.

Much of Malcolm’s donation went towards two research centres focused on improving dementia care, including investigating how community pharmacists can improve people’s dementia journeys, how best to support family carers, and how to support movement in people living with frailty on surgical wards. All of these have the potential to radically transform dementia care in upcoming years.

As well as generating new knowledge, these centres have supported a new generation of the best and brightest dementia researchers.

By investing in the future of dementia research, Malcolm’s donation will make a life-changing difference to far more than just one couple.

From 2014 onwards, Alzheimer’s Society launched eight Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs) across the UK. Each brought together PhD students and clinical fellows to focus on a different area of dementia research. Malcolm’s gift supported DTCs in Bradford and Southampton, both of which focused on finding innovative solutions to problems within dementia care. 

The Bradford centre investigated transitions in care, such as when a person moves between home and a hospital, which can be an extremely upsetting and confusing experience for someone with dementia. In Southampton, researchers explored how to provide better care by allowing people with dementia to take certain risks – which help people live independently and maintain control over aspects of their lives - while staying safe.

Meaningful outcomes have already emerged from the centres. Researcher Dr Courtney Genge has developed a dementia friendly hospital charter to allow greater dignity within hospitals.

Akhlak Rauf, who is in the final stages of his PhD, recently presented as a keynote speaker at Alzheimer Europe Conference on intercultural care, which could have a huge impact on the way care is provided to people in a way that is relevant to their background and culture.

Meanwhile, Dr Kellyn Lee has designed a programme exploring how the comfort of familiar items in care helps people lead active and meaningful lives. This is designed to enhance independence, mobility, and happiness, and reduce agitation. Lee is currently working with industry partners to roll this out in care homes and services.

10,000 offers of support

As well as funding crucial research, part of Malcolm’s donation went towards immediate life-changing services across the North East of England, where Malcolm grew up and now lives. For him, it was important to give back to the place he had always loved.

Between 2016 and 2019, Malcolm helped fund services across the North East which supported more than 10,000 people. These included Dementia Adviser services, which offer support and advice, and transformational Singing for the Brain sessions, which foster community and have incredible cognitive impacts for people living with dementia. All of the services that have benefited from Malcolm’s donation are designed to encourage confidence and connection, helping people live well with dementia.

Jean used to be a singer in a band, and music had always given her joy. After her diagnosis, she and Malcolm had attended their local Singing for the Brain group sessions in North Shields. Dementia can be extremely isolating, but by giving back to local services like this, which he and Jean enjoyed together, Malcolm provided respite to many other families like his. Thanks to his contribution to local services, people affected by dementia could continue doing the activities they loved.

Malcolm Joyce receiving award for Philanthropist of the year

In 2017, Malcolm was named ‘Philanthropist of the Year’ at the prestigious Spear’s Wealth Management Awards.

Why wait?

Malcolm had initially intended to leave the money to Alzheimer’s Society in his will. ‘I woke up one morning,’ he said, ‘and thought to myself, “why wait until I’m dead?” so I decided there and then to call Alzheimer’s Society and offer the money.’ 

This unprecedented donation has made an exceptional difference to so many. His gift is tangibly changing lives, both through immediate services, and by investing in future research. By donating earlier than planned, he is able to witness the transformational impact his money has had to move the cause forward. 

Making a major gift

Individual philanthropists, grant-making trusts and foundations play a pivotal role in funding our work. Find out more about making a major gift.

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