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Memory Walks: Family walking in honour of brave Isobel and Martin

The extended family walked last year, then went to see Isobel
The extended family walked last year, then went to see Isobel

MOST of us would rather not take our work home, but Frances Mackay had no other choice.

She’s a dementia link worker for Alzheimer Scotland, providing support to people recently diagnosed as well as advising on their future plans. She loves her job, especially being able to help in a time of need.

But that experience didn’t make it any easier when her mum, Isobel Ferrie, began to show symptoms of dementia.

“Mum was only diagnosed a year before she passed away, but she had been living with it for five years,” Frances explained.

“My dad said he could cope himself, that he didn’t want anyone interfering.

“Three of my dad’s family had dementia when we were younger and my parents had been their carers, so we had grown up with it and had an understanding of it.

“My sister Marty is a psychiatric nurse and my brother Billy is a nurse, giving us experience of it in a work environment, too.

“We told Dad she could perhaps be helped if she was given a diagnosis and we thought we had finally got through to him, but twice he cancelled the appointments – although I think Mum might have had something to do with that, too.”

Devoted couple Isobel and husband Martin, from Kirkintilloch near Glasgow, ended up in hospital in March 2014. He had a bad heart and high blood pressure and sadly passed away several months later.

By now Isobel had been diagnosed with vascular dementia. She also had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, which badly affected her breathing and meant she was on oxygen most of the time.

Each day after Martin passed, Isobel would ask how he was doing.

“To begin with we would explain to her, but eventually we just let her think he was still in hospital,” continued Frances, who lives in Dornoch.

“People have opinions on what’s the right and wrong thing to do in that situation, but she was telling us he was in hospital and being looked after by the nurses, so if that made her feel better we were happy to let her believe it.

“We were in the privileged position of knowing the system and being aware of what was ahead of us, but dementia affects every individual differently so having experience didn’t help us in that sense.

“It was a difficult time.”

When Frances, Marty and Billy were sorting through their dad’s belongings, they found an Alzheimer Scotland helpline card. They don’t know if he ever used it, but just knowing he had someone to talk to brought them great comfort.

Isobel eventually went into long-term care but thanks to the charity she was still able to do the one thing that meant so much.

“Mum’s faith was very important to her and she used to go to church every morning.

“The charity organised for a lady called Helen to take her every Tuesday and afterwards they would go for a coffee. Mum really trusted Helen and it came at a time when we all needed it, especially her.”

It was that special care and support that prompted the family to take part in a Memory Walk last year to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer Scotland.

“My niece Rebekah, two great nephews Andrew and Aidan and my son Darren and his girlfriend Susan did it and we had a great day.

“It was a lovely atmosphere and there was lots of advice and information about dementia along the route, too.

“Afterwards we bought burgers and went to see Mum and told her all about the day.”

Isobel passed away in December, aged 77.

This year even more of her family will be taking part in the Memory Walk in Milngavie.

“There are 12 of us this time, including my husband David and daughter Vhairi along with Marty and her son, Lewis,” Frances added.

“Once we’re finished we’ll go for burgers again and although we can’t go and see Mum, we will sit and reminisce about years gone by and all the great times we had with our parents.”

Memory WalksMEMORY WALKS are Alzheimer Scotland’s largest fundraising events and are supported by HSBC.

Twenty walks – from Shetland to the Borders – will take place between August 27 and October 1.

The walks are ideal for all ages and abilities, as well as being wheelchair, buggy and also dog-friendly.

Registration is £10 for adults, £5 for those aged between 12 and 16 and under-12s walk free.

Visit to find out more and to register. If you have any questions about Memory Walks, dementia or the services in your area call Alzheimer Scotland’s free 24-hour Dementia Helpline on 0808 808 3000.


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