In the UK there are an estimated 820,000 people suffering from dementia. My husband’s grandmother was one of these people. This amazing woman, with her big heart and tiny frame, lived her last years on this earth in a confusing world created by her own failing mind; a world most of us cannot even begin to comprehend.
On good days she remembered who we were, she smiled, she gave me advice, and we talked about our shared passion for the written word.
On her bad days, she cried because she wanted her son, but her son had been brutally murdered a few years earlier and we were left with the task of breaking that poor woman’s heart over and over again with the news that her son was gone.
Despite her illness there was one thing she didn’t forget; that I was pregnant and soon she would be a great grandmother. She battled to survive long enough to see my son come into the world. Her emotional state the day she held her great grandson, my beautiful boy, for the first time was more than I could bear and I had to take myself outside and have a good weep.
Despite only being in my life for a short time, she touched my heart completely and we all miss her dearly.
For years I tried not to think about what she went through, but her illness eventually lead to me researching Alzheimer’s disease and reading other’s stories about their own experiences with the disease; be they the one diagnosed with it or someone who loved and cared for someone with dementia.
There was a lot of heartache, a lot of tears, but also a heart-warming sense of just how amazing we as people can be, because the tender loving care that some carers give to their loved ones suffering from this illness is amazing.
Watching my husband’s grandmother and doing all this research lead to me begin work on my current WIP, Memory Book, in which Charlie, a very proud man, struggles to adjust to a life with Alzheimer’s. For Charlie, the realization that he needs help comes when he forgets about a cigarette that he’d left balanced on the edge of an ashtray and heads off out to the shops, returning hours later to find his home and his neighbour’s house burnt to the ground.
Things; however, only get worse for Charlie, as he heads to his bank, only to be reminded that he drew all his money out, months ago; his whole life savings, which he had then stashed under his bed in an old shoe box, having been certain at the time that the banks were out to steal it.
Then, to top everything off, he finds that he isn’t even insured, having failed to keep his payments up to date.
He is left with only one option; to call his son, whom he has not seen, since the death of his wife, many years ago.
Memory book follows Charlie, as he is forced to let go of his pride and seek the help of a son he barely knows anymore; adapting, not only to a new life, in a new home, but grandchildren he struggles to cope with and a daughter in law he can’t stand.
The family’s struggle to cope, not only with Charlie’s ever-worsening condition, but their own life struggles will, I hope, go some way towards illustrating the battle families all over the world cope with every day, as they deal with the heartache that Alzheimer’s brings.
So, what is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is a word used to describe a collection of symptoms, such as memory loss, confusion, difficulties performing everyday tasks, and mood swings.
Two thirds of those who suffer from dementia have Alzheimer’s. That’s around 500,000 people in the UK.
Typical early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:
· Mood or behaviour problems, such as increased anger or a loss of confidence
· Getting lost
· Confusion about the time of day, year, or other aspects of life
· Regularly misplacing items or putting them in strange places
· Regularly forgetting recent events, names, and faces
· Struggling to find the right words to express what they wish to say
· Reduced judgement; for example, being unaware of danger
Although, more common in the elderly, Alzheimer’s can affect people who are much younger and sadly those who are younger can sometimes go undiagnosed for quite a long time.
So, what causes Alzheimer’s?
Scientists and medical professionals tell us there is still a lot to learn about the causes of Alzheimer’s. What is known is that during Alzheimer’s two abnormal proteins build in the brain, forming clumps called either tangles or plaques. These interfere with how brain cells work and communicate with each other. These tangles and plaques are normally first seen in the areas that create new memories.
Although, very little is known about the cause of Alzheimer’s at present, some believe that a mixture of age, genes, environment, and lifestyle could contribute to whether we develop Alzheimer’s or not.
What is clear is that more research needs to be done and that is exactly what Alzheimer’s Research UK is trying to do. Their new blog, Defeating Dementia, is full of very helpful and interesting information on Alzheimer’s disease. Sir Terry Prachett, who sadly suffers from this terrible disease, has been a patron of Alzheimer’s Research UK since 2008 and has an amazing blog post on the site. You can check out both the site and Prachett’s blog post here: http://www.dementiablog.org/
As of yet, I have no release date for Memory Book, as I am still continuing to research and polish it. If you care for someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or have Alzheimer’s yourself, I would love to hear your stories, as it is hearing people’s real stories that will help me to ensure that Memory Book and its characters are as realistic as possible and do justice to those faced with this terrible illness. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if you don’t fit these criteria, please feel free to leave a comment, as I love hearing from other bloggers and making new friends.
Love and hugs all, Joss xx