64-year-old Jan Dodd from Maidstone, Kent, is a full-time carer for her husband Dave, who has Alzheimer’s. Jan is joining Peter Berry on the Dementia Help Cycle Challenge from 25-30 June.
The pair will be cycling 330 miles across the country from Wales to Suffolk, alongside Jon Bray from cycling retailer Sax Velo (https://www.sax-velo.co.uk), who will join the challenge on the last leg. Here, Jan talks about her experiences of being a dementia carer and why taking part in the Dementia Help Cycle Challenge means so much to her.
I used to be an admin clerk for the NHS, but took early retirement due to my husband Dave’s diagnosis. I first noticed that something was wrong about six years ago, but at the time I couldn’t put my finger on it. Dave began having explosions of temper that were very unusual for him as he has always avoided any sort of confrontation and he began making a lot of errors during DIY. He had always been so careful with his projects.
It took about six months from when he first saw the consultant to get a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Initially, I had support from Admiral Nurses but not now – we have only one part-time nurse to cover the whole of Kent. Alzheimer’s Society in Kent are helping Dave – they have a monthly meeting to find out what those living with the condition need but this is a new thing and we’re still finding our feet with it. Our sons live a long way away in Oxford and Cardiff so we don’t get too much help or support at the moment.
Giving up work
We have settled into a routine of doing things and although I get frustrated at how little I can help Dave, he is doing really well at the moment. Unfortunately, Dave had to give up work as he was making too many mistakes and getting very frustrated with his inability to work to his previous capacity.
Staying positive was very hard to begin with but at the beginning of this year, Dave decided to make the most of his life while his memory allows (you can never tell how Alzheimer’s will develop) so he has been doing things and going to places while he still can, like recently doing a Hadrian’s Wall walk for a sense of personal achievement. There are good and bad days but at the moment, we are managing to stay positive.
I decided to join the Dementia Help Cycle Challenge after seeing Peter’s videos on the Dementia Help Facebook page. I read about the challenge and thought: ‘I wish I could do something like that’. I have been looking to have some cycling adventures this year and when he asked if someone would like to join him on the challenge, I thought: ‘Why not? This way I can do something positive’! Doing the challenge will make me feel like I have been able to do my bit to help someone else and raise vital funds for YoungDementia UK (https://www.youngdementiauk.org).
To sponsor Peter, Jan and Jon and donate to The Dementia Help Cycle Challenge, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/TeamDementiaHelp