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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Cumbrian woman gets active for her beloved dad

Brian Batty had always been an active man – the retired mechanic loved putting his skills to use.

Kathleen Batty photo
Kathleen Batty

Taking things apart and putting them back together was second nature to him.

That was until, one day, he suddenly couldn’t. He stripped a lawnmower to fix it, only to find he couldn’t remember how to piece it back together.

For his family it was the first sign that something was wrong – the start of a frustrating decline into dementia, an illness for which there is no cure and for which they believe there’s not enough support.

Now Brian’s daughter, Kathleen, is warming up for two gruelling fundraising efforts to help fund support for people with the condition and those looking after them.

The 33-year-old Innovia laboratory technician, of Wigton, has done half marathons before but in July she will push herself to do the full 26 miles and 385 yards to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Previously it wasn’t something she was interested in, but after her dad, who was from near Cockermouth, died in December she decided to take on the gruelling Lakeland Trails marathon.

She follows this in September with another half marathon, the Great North Run.

Brian, a former mechanic, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in January 2010 and battled for two years before he died at the age of 71.

Miss Batty hopes that by running the marathon on July 7 she can raise awareness of the condition that caused her, mum Margaret, 66, and twin sister Jacqui so much pain.

She said: “I want people to talk about dementia because there’s still that stigma.

“It’s really because of seeing the lack of support that my mum and dad got in the later stages.

“The support was there initially but as he became a bit more challenging his behaviour was unpredictable, and there was a lack of adequate training.

“It’s a scary disease and it can happen to anyone.”

This week is Dementia Awareness Week. Although medication can manage the illness, there is no known cure or way of preventing Alzheimer’s.

The disease begins with symptoms including memory loss and language problems, before progressing to more serious problems including delusions and failure to recognise relatives.

Finally patients become totally dependent on carers.

Currently there are more than 7,500 people in Cumbria with dementia, and that is expected to rise to more than 10,000 within eight years.

Brian had married childhood sweetheart Margaret in 1968, but tragically she was one of the first people he had problems recognising in the later stages of his condition.

Miss Batty said: “He was brilliant. You couldn’t ask for a better dad.

“Everyone he knew loved him. You could see that by the number of people who came to his funeral.

“He grafted all his life and he could fix anything. He used to work long days but would still have time for us.”

Miss Batty has been doing training runs of up to 18 miles in preparation for the marathon. She says exercise was one way of dealing with her dad’s condition.

She said: “It’s hard keeping yourself going and making yourself get out there, but it’s been a great way of coping since dad’s diagnosis.

“You can run away from all the problems and come back feeling a hell of a lot better than when you set off.”

To donate to the Alzheimer’s Society via Miss Batty go to www.justgiving.com/Kathleen-Batty-Great-North-Run.

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