Since January Ami McDonnell (Glasgow) has been clocking up the steps to reach her target of 500 miles before Dementia Awareness Week. Ami had lived with her papa, Tom Reay, her gran and her mum since she was born. She says “I don’t have a memory with my papa where we both aren’t laughing. My favourite memory is when we were playing in the garden and the bench my papa was sat on gave way. We were in hysterics for hours after just thinking about it!”
As he was taking medication with side effects of memory loss for a pre-existing heart condition, the early signs of Tom’s dementia weren’t apparent until one day he went missing for more then 4 hours, culminating in a helicopter search. Tom was diagnosed with vascular dementia.
During lockdown Tom was unable to attend his usual day services and without his regular routine, began to sleep during the day. Ami says “The first few weeks of being in lockdown my papa’s dementia deteriorated rapidly. Me and my papa have always been best friends and to watch him go through this illness was heart-breaking. I went from being his granddaughter to his carer overnight.”
Tom had a series of falls and, after he hit his head badly, was admitted to hospital on the 5th May 2020. He remained in hospital with no visitors for over a month before being moved into a care home where he now lives permanently. When reunited with his wife of 20 years Tom could no longer recall who she was. Like many relatives of care home residents, visiting was restricted and for nearly a year Ami was only able to visit Tom twice.
Ami was inspired to take up this challenge by the song “500 miles” by the Proclaimers which has always been one of Tom’s favourites.
On advice for future fundraisers, Ami says “I would say go for it and give it your all! No matter what you do you will be raising awareness and raising funds. With every step I take I will be doing it for my papa and for all the other individuals who are suffering with this horrible illness or for the families who have lost a loved one to the disease.”
Well done Ami for taking on this challenge and for raising a phenomenal £2,063!
Dementia Awareness Week 2021 will reflect on the devastating impact, and true experience, of coronavirus on the dementia community. We’re asking you to get involved by making a pledge. From taking up a challenge like Ami, to committing to learning a little bit more about dementia, to sharing your own lived experience, every action counts.