Stephanie Martin

My mum was first diagnosed with a form of dementia in 2013, at the age of 51. She then received a confirmatory diagnosis the following year, as initially even dementia specialists were baffled by how an otherwise physically healthy woman with no family history of early-onset dementia could have it at such a relatively young age. Although she had been showing symptoms of the disease for some years previously, this diagnosis was a terrible blow, as my parents had only recently moved to Wiltshire (in 2011). Having formed no close friendships in the area, and with her extended family some distance away, we feared that Mum would very quickly become isolated from the community. As it turned out, we needn't have worried. While Mum's 'world' did indeed shrink as the disease progressed, until she eventually became unable to walk and had to move in to a care home last year, the support both she and my dad had from Alzheimer's Support was wonderful.

Alzheimer's Support is a charity based in Wiltshire that aims to support people with dementia and their carers, while also improving dementia awareness in the wider community. Mum was able to attend day care and activity groups such as Singing for the Brain, which helped keep her happy and relatively focused, and above all else, made my parents feel that they were not alone in their struggle with dementia, and that, while witnessing Mum's decline was an undeniably sad and frustrating experience, there were still smiles and good times to be had along the way.

The picture on this page was taken in July 2010. We used to take a 'team photo' of the four of us (Mum, Dad, Nat and myself) every summer holiday, and this is the last one. While there are some more photos of Mum and me taken since then, this is probably my favourite of the ones taken since Mum started to show early signs of dementia (though at this stage they were usually minor lapses which she would put down to the the stress of an impending house move). Our memories of happy times are precious - the least we can do is make sure that those who have difficulty remembering due to dementia are happy here and now.

It is for this reason that I'll be walking 12 miles along the Kennet and Avon Canal on the 17th June in the hope that the money I'll raise will help continue the amazing work that Alzheimer's Support do.

Stephanie Martin