Category Archives: Alzheimer’s Disease

dementia-friends-5401

Dementia Friends

Alzheimer’s Society Launches Dementia Friends

Today sees the launch of the Alzheimer’s Society’sDementia Friends” scheme. Dementia Friends is Alzheimer’s Society’s groundbreaking new initiative which will give more people an understanding of dementia and the small things that could make a difference to people living in their community. From today anyone in England can go online and register to become a Dementia Friend.

dementia-friends-helping-hand

Since my involvement with Alzheimer’s Society started, and throughout the time working with Dad to promote awareness and raise money, I’ve noticed something rather startling. Very few people have any significant knowledge about dementia or about how to deal with people with dementia. Bearing in mind 1 in 3 people over 65 and 1 in 2 people over 80 will die with dementia – it’s something that is going to affect us all eventually – whether we get the disease ourselves, or have a grandparent, parent, spouse or partner that is affected.

Combine this startling lack of knowledge with the stigma currently attached to dementia and we have a very naive population that are not ready for the massive increase in numbers of people suffering from the disease – there are already an estimated 800,000 in the UK, rising to around 1.7 million by 2050.

Over the last few months, I’ve had many friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even strangers contact me to ask for advice. Now, I’m not a doctor, or a dementia specialist… and I think this is the key point. I’m just someone with experience of living with and caring for someone with dementia, and how to cope with it. This suggests to me that people prefer talking to someone on a non-professional basis – and this can open the way to getting a diagnosis, help and treatment for the person they are worried about.

But there’s much more to Dementia Friends than this. Knowing how and when to help someone with dementia can be tough – but having dementia friends within the community will mean that there’s always someone around who can help… whether it’s helping someone find the right bus, or making sure local businesses are dementia-aware. Dementia Friends know how to act more sympathetically towards people with dementia in their communities and workplaces, and will undertake to turn that understanding into action to help people with dementia feel included in their communities.

I’m really looking forward to helping promote the initiative and to becoming a Dementia Friends champion myself in due course.

For more information see the Dementia Friends website.

Jamie Anderson carrying Gerry Anderson's cffin

My Eulogy for Gerry Anderson, My Dad

If anyone wanted to read or re-read the my eulogy for Gerry Anderson, my Dad at his funeral – I’ve transcribed it here:

Jamie Anderson carrying Gerry Anderson's cffin“I’d like to start by reading you a reference that was written by Dad’s first ever employer – “Lewis’ Photos of Regent Street”. It was written in December 1944 when Dad was just 15.

“Mr G A Anderson was in the employ of this Company for about six months.

During that time he has shown himself to be honest and reliable, persevering, and always anxious to oblige.

He is leaving the company to better his position, and carries with him the good wishes of all”.

I think you’ll all agree that he went on to better his position – making a huge impact on the lives of millions, and leaving a phenomenal legacy behind him.

His RAF Certificate of Service and Release from 1949 stated:

“Corporal Anderson has been employed as a Radio Telephone Operator during his service in the Royal Air Force. He has proved to be a very capable NCO and RTO, and can be recommended to any employer as industrious and trustworthy”.

I think these documents go to show that: as you age, you don’t change. You just become more so.

Dad always told me that something wonderful happens when you die: You suddenly become a brilliant, amazing person, and nobody says a bad word about you. But he would be the first to admit that he made a lot of mistakes in his life.

So, I’m not going to talk to you about Dad’s television and film achievements, or go through a list of qualities he had. Instead, rather than talking to you about Gerry Anderson the TV producer; I’d like to share with you a few things about my dad.

My dad was not a great one for public recognition, but did enjoy the occasions on which he was recognised by fans of his work. In the early 1990s he was in London at some serviced apartments for a meeting. The caretaker who let him in instantly recognised him and said “Oh! Could I possibly have your autograph please” handing him a pad. Dad gleefully signed his name, and handed back the pad. Confused, and tiliting the pad from side to side, the caretaker said: “What’s this supposed to say? It doesn’t look anything like Donald Pleasance!”. Dejected, Dad proceeded to his meeting.

He loved keeping up with the latest gadgets. He was one of the first people in the UK to buy a VCR from Japan – the Philips N1500 in 1975. The guys at the sorting office had never seen one before, and so it never made it to Dad’s home. Being only a few years after the Post Office tower bombing: It was destroyed in a controlled explosion by the bomb squad! He was just too avant garde for some people.

My dad was amazing at creating drama. Not just in his productions, but in real life too. My brother, sisters and I all remember being told of the dangers of: riding bicycles, playing rugby, driving… even eating and drinking. He would tell us gruesome (but mostly made up) stories illustrating graphically how we might end up injured or worse if we took part in these activities. Terrifying images that stayed with us throughout our lives. But at the heart of it was a deep-seated anxiety to keep us safe and well.

He was once almost arrested at Edinburgh airport as he emerged from the ladies toilets to the sound of several startled women screaming. We all had to hide for a couple of hours afterwards to avoid detection.

My dad once made Thai fish soup with a very special ingredient: anti-fungal skin scrub that was intended for the dog. He insisted on eating a portion of the disgusting concoction before realising his mistake and phoning the vet for advice on how much damage it would do him. This led to our very kind vet adding a message to all future bottles of the shampoo: “Not to be used as an ingredient for soup”.

Finally he decided he would forgo the social stigma and embarrassment of people knowing he had Alzheimer’s disease, and became an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society – helping them raise over £1 million in the process. And it’s this that I’m most proud of him for; beyond all of his amazing television and film achievements.

Dad was very lucky to have some very special people in his life to help him along the journey. To those he worked with – what great teams you made, and what fantastic creations you shaped. To those who stuck by him as his Alzheimer’s progressed, and helped him make the most of his last months – thank you; you’ll never know quite how grateful he was. And to Mum – kinder and more caring than I thought humanly possible, Dad could barely express to me his gratitude for everything you did for him, and how lucky he felt to have you in his life.

Thank you everyone for coming to say goodbye to my dad.”

 

Please feel free to re-use sections of this, but please credit me, and this website.

Estimating my Azheimer’s Disease Risk

estimating alzheimers disease risk genetic testing

Estimating Alzheimers disease risk: Testing my genes

Sadly, as many of you will know; my father passed away from complications relating to Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia (mixed dementia) just a few days ago. He had been campaigning to raise awareness and funding for the Alzheimer’s Society for around a year, and was very keen that I should continue his work.

Dad made no bones about the fact that suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease was one of the worst times of his life. He lost his driving license, his independence, his creativity, his memory, his identity and eventually his life to the disease. I think you’ll agree that’s a pretty terrible way to go. And that doesn’t even cover the half of it. Hallucinations, paranoia, emotional, and angry outbursts are some additional things you might experience, or observe, but of course as the sufferer – you can’t always see that it’s the disease that’s causing these changes. In fact, to you, you feel like the only sane one; like the World is caving in around you and nobody else can see it. But you’re normal, you’re sane… you haven’t lost your mind. At least that’s your experience as the person suffering from the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is 60-80% heritable, or so geneticists estimate. That means that your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease is around 60-80% down to your inherited genetics. So, as my father has recently died from the disease it’s at the forefront of my mind that I may well be carrying the genes that predispose me to, or may even cause, development of Alzheimer’s disease in my later years. Perhaps this is a selfish way to look at it. But, I’m a scientist at heart so it’s certainly of great interest to me. The personal connection just makes it more real.

So, I’m getting genotyped. By this, I mean I’m sending off a saliva sample to 23andme in order for them to characterise my genes. Part of this process will involve the geneticists looking at a range of my genes that may (or may not) predispose me to getting Alzheimer’s disease (as well as a range of other diseases including cancers and diabetes). In 2-3 weeks I’ll have my results which will tell me if I have any genes that specifically raise my chance of getting Alzheimer’s.

So what if my results come back positive; that is that I have a genetic makeup that gives me a very high (or at least an above average chance) of developing the disease. Well, this will have been the case whether I know it or not, but then I will be armed with the knowledge. And is knowledge power in these cases? I really do believe it is, and that it will become more powerful as science progresses. I certainly am not a believer in the “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” doctrine. Quite the opposite in fact.

New data about using diet, supplements, exercise, pharmaceuticals etc. to reduce the risk of developing AD is being published all the time, and knowing what I will know, I can make the informed decisions as to whether I will incorporate these decisions into my day-to-day life. If my risk is increased, then I can increase monitoring efforts, inform my GP that I am at higher risk, and be more ready if cognitive changes do start to occur.

I’ll update you in a few weeks when I get my results back. Then I will know. And knowing is half the battle.

Gerry Anderson

A thank you

Gerry Anderson
Gerry Anderson

I just wanted to write a quick note to thank everyone who has been kind enough to get in touch with us over the last 24 hours. We’ve received hundreds of e-mails, read through thousands of tweets, and receives many dozens of phone calls. Dad would have been utterly astonished by the response of the public and the media.

The most overwhelming thing has been the fact that so many people have been so touched by Dad’s work. Not just in terms of entertainment during their childhoods, but into adulthood – altering career paths and generating new interests, that might not have otherwise existed. This depth of influence has been incredibly striking for us, and as a family we truly appreciate the time you have all taken to contact us and share your thoughts, memories, and experiences.

We intend to keep Dad’s memory and legacy going as much as possible, and I will be writing about a number of upcoming projects in the near future.

In the meantime, if you would like to honour his memory then please continue to give donations to the Alzheimer’s Society via our memorial Just Giving page at http://www.justgiving.com/RememberingGerryAnderson

Thank you again for your continuing support and kind messages – they really do mean a huge amount to us.

Department of Health & Alzheimer’s Society launch Dementia Early Signs and Symptoms campaign

Did you know that only around 40% of those in the UK with dementia (Alzheimer’s disease) or other forms have actually received a diagnosis?

There are two problems that are causing this low diagnosis rate:

  1. People don’t know what the difference between symptoms of dementia and old age are.
  2. There is a huge stigma attached to dementia, so people don’t want to be diagnosed.

To help with this, the department of health are launching a campaign to help get more people diagnosed early. The campaign starts on 21st September 2012. When trying to get a diagnosis of dementia early signs are key.

Getting an early diagnosis is actually one of the best things that could possibly happen to someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. There are treatments available that can slow the progress of most dementias, and once a sufferer knows they can make sense of the symptoms they have been experiencing and most importantly – plan for the future.

So what are the signs and symptoms that someone may be developing dementia?

  • Struggling to remember recent events, although you can easily recall things that happened in the past
  • Finding it hard to follow conversations or programmes on TV
  • Forgetting the names of friends or everyday objects
  • Cannot recall things you have heard, seen or read
  • Repeating yourself or losing the thread of what you are saying
  • Having problems thinking and reasoning
  • Feeling anxious, depressed or angry about your memory loss
  • Finding that other people start to comment on your memory loss
  • Feeling confused even when in a familiar environment.
To this list I would also add the following from my personal experience of my Father’s dementia:
  • Poor road positioning and difficulty negotiating roundabouts when driving
  • Getting confused at the cinema: no longer enjoying films due to an inability to follow the story
  • Repeatedly walking into a room and not knowing why you are there
  • Getting lost while travelling routes you travel regularly (walking, cycling or driving)

So, the key message is – if you are worried about a relative (or you are worried about yourself) then get it dealt with asap. There are tips about how to approach the subject and discuss it on the Alzheimer’s society website: www.alzheimers.org.uk/toptips