Activities Leader at Amelia House raises money for battle against dementia

Jennifer Rayner, Personal Activites Leader at Amelia House Care Home in York, is following in the footsteps of her late father by returning to his old climbing routes. Jenny explains how retracing his steps has made her feel closer to the man she remembers.

Martin Rayner's diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's disease at the age of 52 came as a devastating shock. His family had noticed some changes in his behaviour: he would struggle to concentrate and on a few significant occasions seemed uncharacteristically forgetful.

It became clear something was definitely wrong when the devoted walker and mountain climber started to lose his bearings.

Jenny explains: "He started losing concentration and not understanding where he was. He lost hisa sense of awareness. He would go out wandering and forget where he was going. That wasn't my dad.

“When dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, he went into shock. It was very upsetting. He realised he couldn't go out walking anymore, that really had an effect on him.”

Martin's condition quickly declined and heartbreakingly he forgot most of the life he’d had after his twenties. While he remembered his wife Muriel, he stopped recognising Jenny.

Three years after his diagnosis, Martin sadly died from pneumonia. He was only 55 years old.

Jenny struggles to reconcile the difference between the father she knew and the person he became as a result of the disease. Soon after her father's death Jenny took up his hobby of walking.

"I wasn't into walking until he passed away and then I started getting the bug," she said, "My mum showed me lots of pictures of him walking."

With the aid of diaries he had kept, she set about retracing her father's footsteps on his many adventures.

"It's bringing back my dad's memory," Jennifer said, "I'm gutted I couldn't do these walks with him. It's quite poignant. When I go on walks I feel close to him. You feel like he is sat beside you."

After her mum found a picture of Martin on the challenging Amphitheatre Buttress climb in Wales, Jennifer has become determined to complete the climb, with plans to complete it on her 40th birthday in July in aid of Alzheimer’s Society.

"Of course being the adventurous type I thought I would give it a go in his honour," Jennifer said, "It will be a tough challenge but it’s great to know that I will be raising funds to help support people to live well with dementia today and fund research to find a cure for tomorrow."

We'll keep you updated with Jenny's progress.

Date published: 15 September 2017

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