Claire Gaffey, from Swansea, is the face of this year’s Memory Walk TV ad.
Claire, 44, was delighted to be picked to front the charity’s biggest annual fundraising event and is excited for Memory Walk to return to her home city on Saturday 13 October.
Claire said “I was over the moon – filming the ad was great fun. It really made me feel that I could do my little bit.”
She was skiing in the Alps when she heard the news that she would feature in the national campaign. “I received an email from Alzheimer’s Society asking if I’d be interested in working on some promotional activity for them and I thought ‘anything I can do to help’.
Claire and her family began taking part in Memory Walk after her mother’s diagnosis in 2013, and the impact of her first walk has stayed with her.
“I felt isolated because dementia isn’t talked about like cancer or heart disease,’ she says. ‘But joining Memory Walk, you feel you’re not on your own.’
Claire’s mum, Gill, was 69 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, though this was later changed to mixed dementia – Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Living in London, Claire had noticed a change in her mum over the phone before it became clear she was withdrawing from conversations and daily activities.
Using her phone, Claire showed the TV ad to Gill, who has been in residential care for a year and now only says the occasional word.
“Mum has barely spoken on the last few visits, there’s very little interaction or recognition.
‘She was intently looking at the screen. I showed her the ad a second time, and she was taking it in even more.
“I asked her if she liked it and she said, “Yes.” It was like her endorsing it for me, like she was saying, “Go ahead.”
Every autumn, thousands of people unite at Memory Walks all over Wales, England and Northern Ireland. As well as raising millions for research and support, it’s a great way to come together for the cause.
So far over 1,584 supporters have registered to take part in Swansea Memory Walk. There are 3,363 people living with dementia in Swansea and last year’s Welsh walks – attended by over 4,632 people – raised more than £237,162 to fund research and provide support.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect,’ says Claire ‘But I walked into a very positive, happy and upbeat atmosphere, which was amazing.”
Gill didn’t get any follow-up in the year following her diagnosis at the memory clinic. However after Claire’s Dad, John, contacted Alzheimer’s Society, they went to Singing for the Brain, a dementia café and a day centre.
Gill and John joined Swansea’s Memory Walks for two years in a row, and both Claire and her sister have taken part in others and will all be walking at Museum Green, Swansea on Saturday 13 October.
“It’s been really important to us as a family,” says Claire.
Claire hopes that others will join her and sign up for Memory Walk at memorywalk.org.uk.