My journey

My Journey to Alzheimer's door 

In retrospect, what were the influential forces that led me to where I am today? They were overwhelmingly educational. It was the days of the 11+. I took the exam when I was only 10 and then my school had a fast route to A levels, which I passed, so that I found myself going to the London School of Economics (LSE) at the age of 16.  It was an incredible experience linking the hugely multinational LSE with the glamour of London. 

One of the most interesting and memorable experiences that arose out of my time at LSE was on the Criminology course where one had to undertake a small scale research project. The lecturer approached me because of my interests and said that the Governor of Dover Borstal in Kent would like a student to undertake a project to strengthen the education component of the programme. Borstals were run by the Penal service of the government and were there to take young offenders (under 21) away from the prisons. Most of what Borstals did was geared towards manual work and many of the offenders were under achievers. It was a shock to me that significant numbers of them could not remember the name of any teacher at a school they had attended. Many of them came from poor areas in the east end of London. I found out that I did not want to run a Borstal but that I had enjoyed teaching them.  



Tony Worthington
                   Tony Worthington

one more thing

The most important thing

There is one other way in which Dover has been important to me in my journey towards Alzheimer's: Angela arrived in my life. How did this happen? On Saturday evenings I would look for entertainment, and the splendid Leas Cliff Hall in nearby Folkstone was the place to go. It was the time of British trad jazz led by Kenny Ball, Chris Barber and Acker Bilk and they each (and others) gave Saturday dances - and Angela was discovered. We married 54 years ago, our journey started in Dover and we have now reached Clydebank.

My career

My career

After gaining a teaching qualification from the University of York, I was employed at Jordanhill College of Education, Glasgow. This teaching was particularly demanding for me because I was elected to the newly formed Strathclyde Regional Council during that time. In 1987, I was elected to Westminster for the Clydebank and Milngavie Constituency. I shall talk more about my constituency work later, but probably the most satisfying of my work at Westminster was that I worked for about 5 years with Mo Mowlam on the work to bring peace to Northern Ireland. I was specifically responsible for health and education. My interest in International Development is considerable, and I became Chair of the International Development Select Committee and made several international visits, including Africa during this time.  I was particularly pleased about one reform. Clydebank has suffered badly from asbestosis and working with a local group, we persuaded Gordon Brown to make a legislative change to help sufferers. Finally, my life in Clydebank has been dominated by the need to overcome the consequences of the collapse of the shipyards and Singers, which continues with the huge and emerging changes in the Queen's Quay area. 



Tony Worthington speaking at conference

My diagnosis

How my dementia diagnosis came about

During 2018, when I was 77, I had noticed that I was confusing peoples' names, particularly those of our relatives and grandchildren. Also, whilst undergoing my treatment at the Beatson for prostate cancer, I found that I was forgetting, or not fully understanding the options discussed with me. After my treatment, I decided to raise my memory concerns with my GP. Initially he said he received a number of enquiries every week from people worried about their memories, and that I seemed very able to express myself. He carried out a few memory exercises and felt there was no real cause for concern. He advised that I should come back if my worries about my memory continued. I did return and this time my GP said that there was cause for concern, and said he would refer me to the Memory Clinic. Shortly after that I was visited by a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN), who in turn arranged for me to have a CT scan. On visiting the doctor at the clinic to receive the results, he showed me my brain scan which demonstrated that I had Vascular Dementia. I would receive the support of my CPN for a year and this indeed took place. It was during one of the visits from the CPN that she suggested that I visit the Dementia Advisor at the Alzheimer Scotland centre in Clydebank. 

Alzheimer Scotland

My involvement with Alzheimer Scotland

Both Angela and I then became involved locally with Alzheimer Scotland at their Clydebank Resource Centre. We met with our Dementia Advisor, Community Activity Organisers and other volunteers. We enjoyed the weekly Drop In Cafe, where we met other people living with dementia and their carers. We had fun activities, quizzes and games, dancing classes, and we enjoyed going to Dumbarton to hear performances from the Every Voice Choir. We also had more serious discussions, for example a morning devoted to the Fair Dementia Care Campaign, an issue of importance to us all. On policy issues, I subsequently became involved with the Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG), with whom I would meet in Glasgow. I found this to be a rewarding experience and enjoyed having the opportunity to contribute to discussions. 

The impact of the pandemic

We have all been greatly hampered in these activities by the impact of Covid 19, which of course stopped all face to face meetings. However, since Alzheimer Scotland as an organisation has moved our activities on to the digital platforms, we have participated in a number of sessions. This has included enjoyable and entertaining choir sessions, quizzes and chats to the more serious, policy making activities with the SDWG. A good example of this is the regular update meetings we have with Alzheimer Scotland Chief Executive Henry Simmons and Director of Policy and Research Jim Pearson.  There can be gains from using the digital platforms, although it is frustrating when they don't work smoothly  due to technical difficulties or inadequacies. It is regrettable that not everyone has the necessary equipment to allow them to take part in online groups and activities. 


Tony Worthington
                  Tony enjoying his garden



"I am extremely grateful for the efforts and hard work of Alzheimer Scotland to support us, and to carry out their stated aim 'making sure nobody faces dementia alone'"