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'Memory Walk will honour my grandad and all those dealing with Alzheimer's'

Granddaughter reveals ordeal as dementia hits more people

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 22/09/2015

Don Bell who was diagnosed with dementia four years ago
Don Bell who was diagnosed with dementia four years ago
Harriet with her grandmother Nona
Harriet with her granddad as a child
Don at work

The granddaughter of a man who is battling dementia has spoken of the pain her family has experienced watching his health deteriorate.

Harriet Bell was speaking ahead of this weekend's Alzheimer's Society's Memory Walk which she will take part in to honour her grandfather, Don Bell.

The 22-year-old said her family's lives had been transformed since her grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's almost four years ago.

"Watching my grandpa deteriorate is awful. He has suffered a series of mini-strokes and now can't speak - this has been one of the hardest things, not hearing his voice," she said.

The family from Coleraine said the first signs that indicated something was wrong was when he became forgetful.

"He would forget where the car was parked if he was in town, forget where a certain shop would be. He would repeat a story more than once in a day, simple things like that," Harriet said.

The 84-year-old then went to the dentist a few months after this started and he fell down the stairs which they think made the disease progress more quickly.

He was diagnosed shortly after this. Harriet explained her grandfather now lives in Cornfields Care Centre in Limavady.

"It is a great care home and we are very grateful for all they do," she said.

"But it has been very tough on all our family as we have not had to deal with anything like this before."

Don, who will celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary next year with his wife Nona, is one of 19,765 people living with dementia in Northern Ireland. There are 3,175 people in Belfast alone and last year's event raised more than £150,000 to support services and research.

More than 2,000 supporters have already registered to take part in the Memory Walk, which will take place in Belfast on Saturday at Stormont Estate. Harriet explained the importance of her family participating in the event.

"We are taking part in the Memory Walk to honour my grandpa and to help others with dementia. He has lived a wonderful life and we want to celebrate that. He graduated from Queen's University and started working in a man-made fibre plant, Chemstrand in Coleraine, as a charge hand.

"He later became plant manager and was so successful he travelled all over the world with his job.

"He was a hard worker and is very loved by the local community and his family."

Alzheimer's Society research shows that this year 850,000 people in the UK will be living with a form of dementia. In less than 10 years a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to two million people by 2051.

Dementia costs the UK economy more than £26bn per year. This is the equivalent of more than £30,000 per person with dementia.

Bernadine McCrory, Alzheimer's Society director for Northern Ireland said: "Memory Walk is a day for everyone to come together, celebrate loved ones affected by dementia, and raise money to fund research and services for people living with dementia."

For more information or to sign up for Memory Walk, visit

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