Dementia Help’s co-director, Peter Berry, was diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer’s disease and his diagnosis led to him deciding to cycle 330 miles across the UK to raise funds for YoungDementia UK.
Peter Berry, 53, from Friston in Suffolk, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago. Peter has been able to remain relatively independent despite his diagnosis. He credits a positive attitude and regular exercise – cycling enables him to ‘leave dementia at home for a while’ – with helping him to manage the condition. His love of cycling and his passion to educate people about how dementia changes lives have inspired him and his colleagues to launch the Dementia Help Cycle Challenge. From 25 June 2018, the trio will cycle from Wales to Suffolk – covering up to 50 miles per day over six days, to raise funds for YoungDementia UK.
Peter is married to Teresa, and they have one daughter, Kate, who is 23. Peter had to give up the family business he ran for many years not long after being diagnosed. He still works in the business three days a week but is unable to oversee it as before. Here is his story…
‘Before I developed Alzheimer’s, I ran a timber saw milling business that I inherited from my father. When I first developed symptoms of dementia, I was making a lot of mistakes at work. My memory was letting me down badly. I’d meet somebody in the morning, see them a day later and have no knowledge of meeting them before. It got to the point where I couldn't run the business and I’ve had to let go of it now, though I still work three days a week to continue to earn an income.
‘I have lost the ability to do mathematics. I used to use measurements a lot in my work, but can’t do any type of measurement or calculation. I can't count money very well anymore. I know what a £5 note looks like and other coins, but if I have a handful of coins and somebody asks me for a sum of money, I have absolutely no idea how to count the coins out.
‘I try to be independent. I still have my common sense. I can still muddle through certain situations. I have this condition, but I'm not going to let it get me down. I do a lot of cycling and gardening, and as much work as I can. I forget how to use the garden machinery, like strimmers and lawnmowers, but I have diagrams in my garage of how to use them. Being positive is the best way. You mustn't dwell on the things you can't do. You’ve got to focus on the things you can do, and if you achieve something it does give you a boost.
‘My advice to someone who has just been diagnosed is yes, it is a shock, but it’s not the end of the world. It's not the end of your life. Use your time wisely, but there's no point in dwelling on it. Keep fit – don't sit in a dreary room. Get outside in the daylight, because life is for living and at the end of the day, you must make the most of it.
‘That’s why I’ve got involved with Dementia Help. I met the founder, Christina Neal, when she interviewed me for an article. We clicked, as she clearly understood dementia and had cared for her late mum for nearly ten years. She invited me on board to offer my perspective of dementia and I’ve been posting weekly videos which have helped many people. We work very well as a team so I had the idea of doing a cycle challenge last year. I have been a keen cyclist for many years. I really believe in the great work that YoungDementia UK is doing and I’d urge everyone to sponsor us and donate what they can for a good cause.'
You can donate to the Dementia Help Cycle Challenge here
Photo credit - Dave Collison