Written by Active Minds on Thursday the 26th of September 2013.
On Saturday September 14th my mum and I took part in a Memory Walk to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society at Holkham Hall in Norfolk. We raised over £1, 500 between us and we walked in memory of my grandmother, and mum’s mother, Mary.
Mary had Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia for 10 years.
Approximately 300 people took part in the walk at Holkham Hall. Everyone gathered before the walk and in the middle of our meeting point stood a memory tree on which families and carers were hanging notes of their memories, wishes and thoughts. Dogs’ tails were wagging and some were even sporting little doggy jackets displaying the names of those who were being remembered on the walk. Just as we were about to set off, actress Olivia Colman gave a little speech to us all as she cut the start-line ribbon…
The walk took 2 hours and mum and I spent a lot of that time reminiscing about Mary, recording our conversation as we walked…
I don’t remember much of my grandmother before she was diagnosed with dementia. What I do remember is her cooking. She was forever in the kitchen I seem to remember, especially on the occasions I would see her the most, namely Easter and Christmas.
She made biscuits a little like Florentines, which became known as ‘Granny’s Specials’. They were a big treat, and also kept in a tin at a height in the kitchen cupboard that I couldn’t easily reach!
I also remember her collecting all the crumbs and food scraps after meals to place on the bird table which sat outside the kitchen window. She could then watch the birds, which she loved to do, as she washed up the dishes.
I remember when she had to move into a care home for the first time, and being asked to collect her for Sunday lunch, on my own. Luckily the care home she was in at that time was only up the road from her house, where my grandfather then lived in on his own. I was so nervous on collecting her, but I was really happy to be taking her back to her old home for the day. I wheeled her past all the neighbour’s front gardens and we stopped if there was a particularly nicely kept one, to admire the roses. I remember thinking it was odd to talk to her while I was pushing her in a wheelchair with us both facing forwards, so stopping and admiring the gardens gave us a chance to talk face-to-face before pushing the wheelchair down the street some more.
My grandmother’s decade long experience with dementia really did change her life, and all of ours, but especially my mum’s.
My mum was my grandmother’s main off-site carer and through caring for grandma she became very passionate about the care of and quality of life of older people and in particular, those with dementia. In 2008, after a 40 year career in creative production, my mum decided to drop everything she’d known previously to dedicate her life to dementia care. Nowadays she is a CQC (Care Quality Commission) Age UK expert by experience and she also travels up and down the country training care professionals as part of her transformative REAL ((Reminiscence, Empathic Engagement and Active Listening) Communication workshops.
The rain held off for the Memory Walk and it was a good feeling for Mum and I to be exchanging memories about grandma. My Mum’s partner, Graham, who accompanied us for the walk, even remembered grandma’s little flirtation with him when she was in the second of the three homes she lived in before she passed away.
There was much more to grandma than her dementia, and mum of course was able to talk with lots more insight about the woman, wife and mum that she was.
Many thanks to all of those that sponsored us on the walk.
Thank you to my grandmother, and my mother, who are both astounding women.
“Hello” to all those we met on the walk who shared their stories.
…And here’s to the marvelous memories of a Memory Walk!