Julie Salkeld in County Durham explains why Memory Walk is such a special event.
My Mam, Grace, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s around 20 years ago, and she lived with it for nine years.
Once she got diagnosed, she didn’t talk about dementia no more. She had cared for us and she didn’t like the role being reversed.
She had memory problems and confusion. She thought her husband was her dad, she thought her granddaughter was me.
Sometimes she was there, with a certain twinkle, other times she wasn’t there. She steadily declined, until she just wasn’t there at all. Alzheimer’s robs you of that person.
We didn’t really know of the support then. People need to be aware of Alzheimer’s Society, whereas I don’t think we were.
I’ve done six Memory Walks in the north-east. When you go, you realise you’re not the only one who’s had to deal with dementia.
Everybody out on that field knows what you went through – I get comfort from that. I also cry every year! As soon as they set everybody off, I can’t help it, it just goes. It’s very emotional.
You get that feeling of everybody coming together, all types of people. I’ve walked with people who are actually going through dementia. And I love it when people have got their dogs!
I’ll talk to anybody I’m walking beside. I once spoke all the way round to a young girl, about 16 or 17, walking for her grandad. You could see she had so much love for him. She knew dementia was a big issue. She was emotional – we cried and hugged each other at one point.
You get friendship and comfort from people talking about their families and what they’ve had to deal with.
I’ve got a photo of Mam on the beach which typifies the vibrant woman she was, so I wear it on my Memory Walk T-shirt.
I also wear her gold sovereign, which was her pride and joy. That goes to every Memory Walk, so she’s there with me.
Who will you walk for at Memory Walk this autumn?