“My grandad has dementia – knowing he won’t see me walk down the aisle on the day I get married breaks me, but he will be walking with me in my heart”. A woman whose grandfather was diagnosed with dementia aged just 62 will join hundreds of fundraisers going the extra mile at Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk in York in September.
Aleesha Newman, 22, of Cayton, North Yorkshire, will be joined by partner Ben for the event at Castle Howard on Sunday, 25 September – and they are encouraging others to also get involved in raising vital funds for the charity.
Aleesha describes her granddad Nick, who she calls ‘Granfie’, as her “best friend” and says he had a huge influence on her upbringing. Now, eights years after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, she talks of the heartache of watching his gradual decline as the condition worsens.
“Each day is slowly getting worse for him and everyone around him. The way I describe having a relative with Alzheimer’s is that it’s like grieving for a loved one twice – once while they are still here, and then you will have to go through it again when the day comes that you lose them.
“Granfie may not remember the memories we created as I grew up, but I certainly cherish them. Knowing he won’t see me walk down the aisle on the day I get married breaks me, but he will be walking with me in my heart. And when I bring my own family into the world, they will be brought up knowing all about their great-grandad and the incredible person he is.”
Aleesha, a customer service assistant for an online retail company, is Nick’s only granddaughter and says he always regarded her as his “little girl”. She recalls with great fondness their time together when he would take her to horse riding lessons or on his canal boat.
She added: “Granfie lives in Somerset with my nana, who cares for him, and it’s hard to say if he still recognises all his family. He doesn’t address us by our names any longer, but he does smile at us – so I hope that’s a sign that he does recognise us in some way. This will be the third time I have taken part in a Memory Walk, but the first time in York. It’s important to me to do what I can to raise awareness. If by doing so I can help more people like Granfie, then it will be worth it – and I know he would be proud of me for getting involved.”
Alzheimer’s Society is a vital source of support and a powerful force for change for everyone affected by dementia. They are the only UK dementia research charity to fund both biomedical and care research, and they are also a funding partner of the UK Dementia Research Institute. They offer friendly support through a range of virtual and in-person services, including their Dementia Connect support line (0333 150 3456), online forum Talking Point, and Dementia Advisers.
Alzheimer’s Society research shows that 900,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia. By 2025, one million people will be living with the condition in the UK, and many millions more carers, partners, families and friends are affected. Dementia deaths are rising year on year and 225,000 will develop dementia this year – that’s one every three minutes. Too many face dementia alone. Alzheimer’s Society wants everyone affected by dementia to know that whoever they are, whatever they’re going through, they can turn to them for expert support through practical advice, emotional support, and guidance for the best next step.
Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk
The Memory Walk brings together people who have been personally affected by dementia, those who want to walk to remember a loved one, and people looking to raise money for charity. Memory Walk events have been a regular fixture in the Autumn calendar for over ten years, seeing half a million walkers raise over £41mn for Alzheimer’s Society.
Linda Haggie, area manager for Alzheimer’s Society in Yorkshire, said:
“It has never been more important to support Alzheimer’s Society’s crucial work. Too many people across Yorkshire are facing dementia alone without adequate support. We urgently need to find a cure, improve care and offer help and understanding for people affected.
“We are in awe of our amazing fundraisers like Aleesha and Ben, who go above and beyond to raise vital funds and awareness for the estimated 76,130 people living with dementia in Yorkshire and Humber. Every step our fundraisers take will to help us provide a lifeline of support for as many people affected by dementia as possible.
“We can’t wait to see walkers of all ages and abilities return to Castle Howard this autumn and I would call on family, friends and colleagues from across the region to put their best foot forward to support this vital cause.”
Hundreds of walkers have already registered to take part in the 6km Castle Howard Memory Walk, which will be on the morning of Sunday, 25 September.
Those who can’t make the official event can opt to walk on their own, or with loved ones, on the paths, pavements, parks or pebbles in a location of their choosing throughout September.
Visit memorywalk.org.uk to find out more about organising your own Memory Walk or taking part in Alzheimer’s Society’s organised events this Autumn. To donate to Alzheimer’s Society or find out more about the important work they do you can visit alzheimers.org.uk.