Meet Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at Alzheimer’s Society.
Why dementia, why the Society?
I was a clinical scientist and policy leader in the NHS for 25 years. Science had made big steps, really improving the lives of people who had conditions such as cancer or cardiovascular disease.
But in dementia, there were no new treatments, no new ways of diagnosing it. There was a huge opportunity to be part of that, taking the best of science and using it to make a real difference for people.
And then my amazing granny, this absolutely tiny powerhouse of a woman – just a huge heroine of mine – she had vascular dementia in her latter years, and the impact on her and on the family was extraordinary. Seeing that first-hand was really motivating.
How to fill an unexpected day off?
I would pack the family into the car and we’d go off for an adventure day. We’d head down to the Kent coast and go kayaking, swim in the sea and play on the beach. Then we’d go and explore, there’s some amazing castles in Kent, like Walmer Castle and Dover Castle. And then we’d come home via a country pub and have a nice family tea out.
I’m really proud of being a mum to three boys and having the privilege of my career, which I really value. Doing those things together is tough at times, but I think that’s what I’m most proud of.
Worst advice you’ve been given?
I can’t think of any – lots of people have given me advice, and there’s always been a nugget in it, something in it that makes you think, something you can reflect on.
Biggest priority for coming months?
Social care reform. COVID has shown everyone how broken the system is and we absolutely need to keep up the pressure on government.
It’s all about ensuring that people affected by dementia get access to the high-quality care that they need.
Most important thing learned from a person with dementia?
To really listen, because everyone’s story is different, and to be kind and smile.
Most looking forward to?
Small steps at the moment – getting the boys back to school, because it’s been really challenging home schooling over the past few months, and then getting back to enjoying days out, seeing family and maybe going on a holiday. Some normal family life!
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