Jamie and Vicki Graham, from Dauntsey, represented Alzheimer’s Research UK at a reception at 10 Downing Street on Thursday.
The event celebrated the progress of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge www.dementiachallenge.dh.gov.uk since its launch in March this year. Mr Graham was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s five years ago at just 59.
Champions of Alzheimer’s Research UK, Mr and Mrs Graham are exceptional supporters of the UK’s leading dementia research charity.
Since Mr Graham’s diagnosis they have campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the need for more funding for research. With the help of family, friends and a crew of veteran oarsmen, Mr Graham rowed from Eton to Henley in 2010 and 2011 in the Forget-Me-Not-Row www.forgetmenotrow.com and raised over £200,000 for the charity.
Mrs Graham, 67, talked about the Downing Street event and the couple’s motivation for supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK: “It was an honour to be invited to the reception in Downing Street and represent Alzheimer’s Research UK. We were delighted to meet the Prime Minister and talk to so many incredible people – it was a wonderful experience.
“Before his diagnosis in 2007, Jamie had a high-powered job in information technology. Since then our lives have been turned upside down - he’s had to give up driving and can no longer use a computer, read or write. “Nowadays, Jamie struggles to find the right words when he talks and I need to have ‘eyes in the back of my head’ otherwise he’d wander off and get lost. He needs help with an increasing number of everyday things – even putting on his socks can be a huge struggle. But despite everything, his sense of humour remains firmly intact and he still likes to keep active. “We’re thrilled the Prime Minister has made dementia a priority, including an increase in funding for research. Despite all the love and care, dementia overwhelms everything. The only solution is new treatments and a cure.”
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, also attended the Downing Street reception and said: “Jamie and Vicki’s enduring support is greatly appreciated and we were pleased they had the opportunity to share their compelling story with David Cameron at the Downing Street reception. Early-onset Alzheimer’s is relatively rare but Jamie’s experience shows that dementia doesn’t just affect older people.
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge and it was an honour to be invited to the reception in Downing Street. We are delighted with the progress being made, including the doubling of public funding for dementia research by 2015, something for which we’ve long campaigned. This is an important step but in reality investment into dementia research still lags far behind other serious diseases. “We are working with the Government to ensure the new funding achieves what is so desperately needed – new treatments and therapies. Investment for research must continue to increase if we are to avert spiralling costs of dementia to the UK economy, currently totalling £23 billion a year. With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia today and numbers set to increase significantly, dementia is a problem we cannot ignore - research is the only answer. “Alzheimer’s Research UK has committed £5.5m to new research projects this year, increasing our current commitment to over £20m. We rely entirely on our supporters to fund our pioneering dementia research and are hugely grateful for their continued support.” To help Alzheimer’s Research UK defeat Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, donate online at www.alzheimersresearchuk.org or call 01223 843899.