When Derry woman Caroline McCleary takes part in the Alzheimer’s Society’s memory walk in the city next month along with her son Caomhan, she’ll be thinking about her late grandmother Kathleen.
A mother of nine and grandmother to 35 children, Creggan woman Kathleen was extremely well known and respected within her community.
She had worked for many years in the canteen of Holy Child Primary School.
“She was so full of life and so well liked and she was always the one looking after everyone else,” said Caroline.
Life changed for the McCleary family in 2008 when Kathleen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, although she had been displaying symptoms for some time before that date, as Caroline explained:
“At first, my granny just seemed a bit forgetful, but we just put it down to old age because she was in her late seventies. She even thought the same herself. Eventually we did get a diagnosis that she had Alzheimer’s disease but it was a long and stressful process.
“My granny was a strong woman so to see her living with this condition and needing to be looked after by her family instead of being the one looking after us was very difficult. She had always been so independent and life for her and everyone around her changed after she was diagnosed. The last few years of her life were very tough.
“As a family we were able to support her so she could continue living in her own home in her community, but I don’t know how people manage when they don’t have that support.
“Not only did granny have support from everyone within the family, but her neighbours in Creggan were amazing. They would always keep and eye out and were there if she ever needed anything.”
Caroline said the support offered to her grandmother was invaluable and she also praised the Alzheimer’s Society.
“I don’t know how people who are diagnosed cope without that level of support. Granny was a proud and popular woman but in the end she wasn’t herself at all. I think it’s important to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and the impact it has on the person who is diagnosed but also on their entire circle of family and friends.
“When I saw the television advert for Memory Walk I just knew it was something I wanted to do. Alzheimer’s Society was so supportive in the first few months after the diagnosis so this is my chance to give something back in granny’s memory.”
Memory Walk is Alzheimer’s Society’s flagship fundraising event which sees walks taking place around the UK throughout the autumn to raise money to fund vital services for people affected by dementia and their carers. It is a day to walk, share and celebrate someone special and everyone walks with one common goal: to defeat dementia.
Caroline is taking part in the Foyle Memory Walk which takes place on Sunday September 7. The meeting point for the walk is the Parade Ground at Ebrington Square.
Caroline is currently fundraising locally and all donations for the memory walk will be gratefully accepted.
Participants at the Foyle Memory Walk can choose between a shorter 2km walk or the longer, more challenging 10km mile walk. Circus inspired entertainment and refreshments will be waiting for walkers’ after they cross the finish line. To register or for more information, please visit http://www.memorywalk.org.uk/foyle