In January I received a surprise email advising me I was one of three finalists shortlisted for an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Hero Award in the Campaigning and Influencing category. It meant I was invited to the awards ceremony lunch at the end of April, attended by nearly 200 guests, celebrated professionals, community groups and members of the public. I confess I felt very humbled just to be one of the potential winners across the 11 award categories which recognise and celebrate the involvement and participation of people affected by dementia in activities and projects across England, Wales and Northern Island. It never actually occurred to me that I might win so when my name was called out it was truly something I was not expecting. Overall it was an absolute privilege to be amongst so many people who have put something back into helping those with dementia. I also felt very proud to have been recognised by a lived experience group which had been involved not only in the judging but also at key stages of the Awards, from planning to speaking about their experiences at the ceremony. I was asked during a television interview a few days later if I had shared the news of my award with my wife, Yvonne. I wish I had been able to but sadly this was never going to be possible. She lives in a care home, unable to speak or process what is being said to her due to her advanced Alzheimer’s.
A couple of weeks after the awards – on 18 May to be specific – I found myself in a room full of 350 people (and a further 150 online) at another event organised by Alzheimer’s Society: this time their Annual Conference, the theme of which was making dementia a priority locally. But instead of being in the audience or attending as a guest, I was on stage acting as host for the day. The planning for such a major event takes place over very many months and it was in fact intended that I, as a carer, would co-host the event with someone living with dementia just as we had done the previous year. So well was our double act received in 2022 that we were invited back to repeat our performance. Unfortunately, my co-host was taken ill on the day and was unable to participate. I only found out when I appeared for breakfast just two hours before start time. Luckily in my professional career as a marketing director not only did I manage and host many events but I was very familiar with last minute mishaps and changes and to always expect the unexpected. The Conference was a huge success, absolutely not due to me I hasten to add, but because of the excellent, informative and inspirational speakers. I really did miss my co-host but as they say, the show must go on.