Gemma Evans – whose dad was diagnosed with dementia aged just 58 – is urging people to sign up for this year’s Watford Memory Walk.
Anyone can sign up at memorywalk.org.uk with a choice of a 3.5km stroll, 9km – or for the first time ever a 20km stretch, all on Saturday 15 September.
Gemma, aged 30, of Aston Clinton, has walked in a series of Memory Walks and volunteered as a helper for Watford as well as taking part in a London Memory Walk – but she loves doing both.
Her dad, Stephan Evans died aged 62.
The former staff sergeant, who served in the Queens Dragoons – including a tour of Northern Ireland – experienced hallucinations as frontotemporal dementia took hold.
“It’s really important to me,” she said.
“I remember the day a few years before when he called and said ‘I have to tell you something, I’ve got dementia.’ “I couldn’t process it.
“He was very calm and said ‘I want you to understand, it’s going to be OK’ said Gemma.
“I burst into tears.”
The Memory Walk is part of the Alzheimer’s Society’s commitment to invest £150 million in research over the next decade.
The society also provide information, care and support for those diagnosed as well as famillies.
Gemma said: “My dad was left unable to write, read, speak, walk or even get dressed without help.
“He died with dementia four years after being diagnosed.
“My step-mum Anita came home to find him preparing loads of food, he said ‘don’t be rude, all these people are here to see us.’
“She had to go and say hello to everyone ‘eating and drinking’ in a room dad saw as filled with people – they weren’t there – it was empty” said Gemma.
Gemma remembers: “At one point he pushed a family member against a wall – that was never my dad, that was dementia.
“He would have hated himself if he’d known.”
Her dad had always been a “gentle and protective” individual.
Dementia is now the UK’s biggest killer, with someone developing it every three minutes.
The Memory Walk aims to raise £9million nationally and bring together more than 110,000 walkers across the generations.
Ways to be involved include anything from completing the walk to presenting medals, giving out water or cheering on walkers.