A devoted son will be taking on the iconic Great North Run next month to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK after seeing both of his parents develop dementia.
Sunderland man Steve Dodsworth, 53, only started running two years ago.
After gradually building up his distance and stamina and participating in nearly 80 parkruns, he’s now taking on one of the Newcastle to South Shields event for the first time.
Steve, who works in cyber security, has already raised over £400 for the charity, which he chose to support the charity after his parents, Mary and Ray, were both diagnosed with dementia.
Mary, who is 74, has Alzheimer’s disease and her husband, 77, has vascular dementia.
The pair, who have lived in South Hylton all their lives, became ill around the same time in the summer of 2014.
Their conditions advanced so quickly that both had to be moved into care by the end of the year.
Speaking about his parents, Steve said: “We knew things were seriously wrong with Dad when he was taken to hospital following a mini-stroke.
“Once there, he became very angry and aggressive, which wasn’t like him.
“We brought him back home but he was still agitated, and then we noticed him arguing with people who weren’t there.
“Since then, Dad has lost his mobility, can’t speak and doesn’t recognise us at all.
“He lives in a secure unit where he’s well cared for but his life just consists of sitting in a chair all day.”
Mary’s symptoms developed quite differently, as Steve explained: “My mum was always a chatterbox and it became obvious that something wasn’t right when she started to say odd things, forgetting her youngest son was married and telling stories about events that hadn’t happened.
“Then she stopped recognising people occasionally, including my dad who she’d been married to for 50 years. That was the most upsetting thing.”
Mary moved into a care home after she was found in the street, not knowing where she lived.
Steve said: “Mum’s a lot calmer now and likes to chat a lot, although she doesn’t really understand what you’re saying.
“Sadly, she doesn’t remember her great-grandchildren anymore, who she used to dote on and, although she says she does, I’m not sure she knows who I am either.
“This all happened within about six months – it was all so fast.
“I found that running really helps – it’s a great stress-reliever.
“This whole experience has opened my eyes to how horrific dementia really is.
“It’s a very hard thing to deal with and it’s scary to see how much it can change someone. It’s as if we are mourning my mum and dad whilst they are still alive.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK funds research looking into prevention, diagnosis and effective treatments for dementia.
Kenneth Foreman, sporting events manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The Great North Run is always a brilliant day and we’re so grateful to Steve for racing on our behalf.
“One in three people over 65 in the UK will die with some form of dementia.
“Only research can beat this devastating condition that affects so many families across the world.”
To support Steve, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Steve-Dodsworth or text SRDX62£5 to 70070 to donate £5.