Have you heard the news about the partnership between Alzheimer’s Research UK and Tikiboo?
If you’ve no idea who or what ‘Tikiboo’ is, let me tell you. They’re an online activewear shop that produces the most gorgeous and brightly coloured fitness wear! As an avid runner, I had previously been rather staid in my choice of outfits, sticking with black leggings and with the only brightness being my Alzheimer’s Research UK orange running vest. However, I kept seeing more and more people wearing funky leggings and last year I felt brave enough to join the Tiki-tribe and treat myself to a pair of quirky leggings. It felt so liberating and fun to get out and run in them!
So, why am I blethering on about leggings? Well, Tikiboo has designed a beautiful collection of sportswear to support Alzheimer’s Research UK, with 20% of every purchase funding vital research. Here you can see me modelling one of the three collections, which I wear while doing yoga at home. I now have two of the three designs, the polka-dots, and galaxy print…but really want to buy the oranges for the full set!
Why Tikiboo’s support Alzheimer’s Research UK is so important to me
During my 15 year association with Alzheimer’s Research UK, I have seen a huge change in the way people see and talk about dementia. We no longer talk about dementia in hushed tones, it’s not so much of a taboo as it once was. Sadly, I think this could be because more people have seen their loved ones disappear into the fog of dementia and want to speak out about their experiences, even though it can be very difficult and painful to discuss.
I was a full-time carer for my mum for many years and watched her turn from a bright, intelligent and very active woman, into someone who could no longer care for herself and had violent, psychotic episodes.
In 1997 my mother, then aged 81, had a series of minor strokes. Shortly after that we started to notice behavioural changes, notably memory loss and confusion over everyday items. We thought it was just old age finally catching up with her. Then she started wandering and had violent mood swings. Although she already lived with us it became obvious that she couldn’t be left alone for long and so I left my job to care for her. The next few years saw a gradual decline into the blackness that is vascular dementia.
My normally placid mum became violent and aggressive. She had psychotic incidents where she would see imaginary people (children hiding in her wardrobe, Russians sitting on the stairs, women stealing her clothes) and she would shout at them and sometimes throw things too. She was so convincing that we used to go and check that there wasn’t anyone there!
When my sister died mum did not know who Judy was or that she was her daughter. There came a point when I suddenly realised she no longer knew that I was her daughter and this was a terrible time for me. In the last two years that she lived with us, life for us all became almost unbearable as she needed 24-hour care – she couldn’t be left alone at all because she would either wander off or hurt herself, she never slept for more than 30 minutes at a time during the night, she became incontinent and incapable of doing anything for herself.
Finally, my husband and I realised that we could no longer provide her with the care that she needed and she went to live in a special care home where the team did a splendid job caring for her in the last few months of her life. There she lived unaware of who she was, what she was or where she was. It was heartbreaking. She died in March 2005, the day after her 89th birthday.
After her death, I felt that I wanted to continue honour my mum’s memory by helping others like her. So I started running marathons to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. After a couple of marathons, I decided to add a crafty twist in her memory, so I became the first person to achieve the Guinness World Record for the longest scarf knitted while running a marathon. I’ve since completed 185 marathons which includes 32 ultra marathons!
Research will find a way
As more fitness fanatics wear Tikiboo’s eye-catching and playful Alzheimer’s Research UK’s range, I believe the collection is going to help bring dementia to the forefront of people’s minds by grabbing the attention of others and starting conversation.
Dementia is not an inevitable part of the ageing process and, thanks to research, people are now managing to live well with the condition for many years. Let’s all come together to help make breakthroughs possible.