Students on the march to help defeat Alzheimer’s

Students Erin Knowles, left, and Chloe Dellin, right, with lecturer Claire Robinson, preparing for the walk with fellow students.
Students Erin Knowles, left, and Chloe Dellin, right, with lecturer Claire Robinson, preparing for the walk with fellow students.

A mass walk with heartfelt messages on badges has been held to highlight the plight of Alzheimer’s sufferers past and present.

About 75 students from South Tyneside College – all learning how to support those with the condition through their health and care course – took part in the three-mile trek.

They each pinned a badge to their top for the person they were walking for – with notes including “dad”, “nana” and even “everyone”.

While many participants had no experience of the condition, for others it was a real personal journey.

They included Erin Knowles, 17, and Chloe Dellin, 18, who have each lost a grandmother to dementia within the past five years, and lecturer and event organiser Claire Robinson, whose father has been diagnosed.

For Erin, of High Trees, Cleadon, the walk had double significance, as her grandparents, Joan and John Knowles, both died of the condition.

She said: “My nana looked after my grandfather during his illness, and then suffered from it too. She was looked after at home until a few weeks before her death.

“This walk is important so that people are made more aware of dementia and how it can impact on families.”

Chloe, of Stoker Avenue, Simonside, South Shields, whose grandmother Isabelle Savage, 84, died in 2012, added: “I want to try to raise money to support research.

“For a year after she was diagnosed we cared for her at home, but she had to go into care for the final three years of her life. It’s important that more research can be done to find a cure.”

Claire, 37, who runs the two-year course in Health and Care, contacted the Alzheimer’s Society for support, having deciding to be proactive for her dad Jimmy Turnbull, 73, who has lived with Alzheimer’s for 18 months.

The society supplied the balloons, badges and T-shirts for the initiative, which went from the college’s Westoe campus in South Shields, to the seafront, with more than £300 already collected.

Claire said: “The course has units on dementia and I have personal experience through my dad. Not only is the dementia unit a key aspect of the course, but, in society as a whole, rates of dementia are increasing.

“I came up with the idea of the walk so that we could help make dementia more known about and also to try to raise money for research.

“Everyone who took part really enjoyed it. I hope we can do the same next year.”

Areas covered on the course include developing effective communication, equality and diversity, and health, safety and security.

It can provide access to a university nursing degree or lead to employment in a range of areas, including work as a paramedic, social worker, or midwife, or with people with learning disabilities.