Sisters devastated by the death of their mum to Alzheimer’s have channelled their grief to fund vital research into the disease.
Determined to make a difference after their mum Jean Brown’s death at 63, siblings Janine Brown and Danielle Lister set up Team Jean and in a few weeks raised £6,000 for Alzheimer’s Research.
Now, the pair are gearing up to stage a black tie ball in aid of the cause, which will be held at the Roker Hotel, Sunderland, on June 15.
Speaking about how the fundraising came about, Janine Brown, 37, from Silksworth, said: “After mam died we decided to do a Memory Walk. We asked for sponsorship, but our friends all took part with us too and we managed to raise £6,000. We never expected to be able to make that much for the charity and realised we could make a difference to people in the future who are affected by Alzheimer’s.
“We managed to raise that amount in just five weeks so for this event we decided to do something even bigger and better, with the hopes of making it an annual event.”
Mum-of-three Jean, who lived in Millfield with husband Barrie Brown, first began displaying symptoms of the disease when she was just 52, but it would be another two years before she was diagnosed.
Danielle, 34, from South Hylton, who works in administration, said: “It was little things at first like forgetfulness and not knowing if she’d had her tea or not, things like that. Our nana had Alzheimer’s, so we knew about the condition, but we never expected it to happen to mam at such a young age.”
Janine, a recruitment manager, added: “I used to work away on cruise ships and mam had always texted me and those texts stopped or were blunt with no kiss. I know that sounds like a silly thing to pick up on, but it was very out of character for her. Things like that were the early signs of her character changing because of the Alzheimer’s.”
Over the years Jean’s condition deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t make a cup of coffee for herself or speak, and she required 24 hour care.
Janine said: “She still always knew who we were, but she couldn’t even open a door towards the end. It was difficult because people associate Alzheimer’s with older people but mam was still in her ‘50s when it happened. It was really difficult for our dad, especially, as she wouldn’t sleep at night and would pace the stairs over and over again.”
Jean, who was also mum to Barry and grandma to Jay Brown, nine, and Ethan Lister, four, passed away at Sunderland Royal Hospital on May 19 last year after going into care in her final days.
The sisters feel passionate about the right care being provided for people suffering from the disease, and respite for their families.
Earlier this year, The Alzheimer’s Society announced it will be shutting its centre, which provides a day support service, in the city’s Hylton Road this summer, blaming the move on funding shortages.
Part of the money raised from the Team Jean Charity Event will go towards North East Dementia Care, which has plans to offer day care at a new site in Springtime Cove, Roker.
Danielle said: “We really want some of the money to stay in Sunderland and help people here. We’re not just saying this because she was our mam, but she really was the most loving, caring person and we feel proud to be able to do something to help others in her name.”
•Tickets are sold out for the Team Jean night at the Roker Hotel, which features a three-course meal, auction, DJ and live entertainment. To support the sisters’ fundraising you can search for “Team Jean” on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @TeamJeanB.