A Devon dementia support worker who has seen first-hand how badly coronavirus has hit people affected by dementia on her patch, has laced up her trainers and trekked the South West coastal path to help raise funds.
As coronavirus has put a stop to large fundraising events taking place, Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Support Worker Karen McElfatrick decided to march out to raise much-needed money for the charity she works for herself.
Alzheimer’s Society’s flagship Memory Walk events had to be cancelled this year, but the UK’s leading dementia charity has been calling on the public to take part in their own smaller – and very personal – walks to help raise money that’s needed more than ever.
Karen, 43, from Barnstaple and her husband Rob, HR Director for a pharmaceutical company, stepped up to the mark, laced up their trainers and put their best feet forward to help the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK by walking a staggering 250 miles of the South West Coastal path from the Lizard in Cornwall to Poole in Dorset.
Mum of two Karen said: “I’ve seen first-hand how people living with dementia, their family and carers have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“A quarter of those who’ve died have had dementia. People have told us that loneliness and lack of social contact is taking a toll on their health and that their dementia symptoms have worsened during lockdown. Carers are feeling isolated too and are struggling to get respite.
“The needs of people affected by dementia has never been higher. Alzheimer’s Society support services have been accessed over 1.7 million times since the pandemic began but we’re facing a shortfall of up to £45 million in income, as a result of coronavirus.”
Karen, who did 100 miles of the walk over six days before returning to work, while husband Rob continued to cover a total of 250 miles, says the trek was tough going at times, but that the amazing views and the knowledge that the money she was raising could make a difference to the people she supports kept her going.
“Yes, we got blisters and yes, we got soaked through by the rain and buffeted by the wind at times. But we were lucky enough to be out in wonderful scenery and I appreciated that what I was going through was nothing compared to many people affected by dementia in this time of crisis.”
The charity says there’s still time for people to organise their own Santander-sponsored Memory Walk. Many people have arranged walks on 20 September, the day before World Alzheimer’s Day, but events can take place any time between now and October.
Marion Child, Head of Region for Alzheimer’s Society adds: “We need as many people as possible to take part. Money raised will help Alzheimer’s Society reach more people affected by dementia through services such as Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line, so they don’t have to face these challenging times alone.
“It’s free to sign up online, and you’ll find plenty of support on offer there to organise your own walk.
“You can choose a time and a place to walk– from lapping your garden or your local park to revisiting somewhere special that holds special memories for you and your loved ones. You can choose to walk alone, with a four-legged friend, members of your household or another household – in line with latest government guidelines.
Sign up now at memorywalk.org.uk.
So far, Karen has raised £1,677, but you can still donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/