'It has ripped the family apart to see Alzheimer's rob us of our lovely mum'
A Co Antrim woman says her family has been ripped apart by her mother's eight-year battle with Alzheimer's.
Kerry Bacon, a mum-of-five from Portrush, has spoken movingly about her beloved mother Harriet Anderson, who was diagnosed eight years ago when she was only 52, as she bids to raise vital funds for research into dementia and services for patients.
Kerry recalled the harrowing moments when she realised something was dreadfully wrong with her mum.
"At first she kept repeating the same story to me over and over again and then she started putting things in strange places like the fabric softener in the fridge," she explained.
"Finally one day she said something about my granny who had been dead for five years.
"When I told her that granny was gone she just broke down in tears and said nobody had told her.
"That's when we really knew things weren't right."
After Harriet was diagnosed, she continued living at home where she was cared for by her husband Martin and their four children.
Three years ago, the family had to make the heartbreaking decision to place Harriet into the care of staff at The Cottage Care Home in Coleraine because of how quickly the Alzheimer's had progressed.
Kerry explained: "Mum didn't remember how to go to the toilet anymore so she would have to be bathed, dressed and cooked for because she just couldn't do anything.
"One day she wandered out of the house and got lost.
"A neighbour rang us to say that she had gone to her old home, my granny's place, which isn't there any more.
"When we finally had to face up to the fact that we could no longer look after her at home it was awful.
"I didn't want her to go into care but I had to think about my dad who was living in the house with her.
"He was the one there through the night when she didn't understand that it was time to go to sleep."
Harriet is now in a wheelchair following a hip replacement operation, which has reduced her mobility.
Kerry says that while she can still hold her mum's hand when she goes to visit her in the care home, she misses the person Harriet used to be.
"She loved her country music and rock 'n' roll and was well-known as the best jiver in Portrush, as well as George Best's biggest fan," she added.
"Mum also beat cancer three times when she was in her 40s and now, aged 60, to see her like this is just so unfair and proves that Alzheimer's doesn't just affect the elderly.
"It has ripped our family apart watching our lovely, bubbly mum decline from the fun loving person she was.
"She speaks only sometimes now but it's only the odd word we can make out as it's all mumble-jumble.
"This has really tested us as a family and there have been days when I have seen my dad cry his eyes out.
"He misses the wife he used to know and wants her back. They have been together since they were teenagers."
Kerry says the days when her mum doesn't recognise her family are the worst.
"It's extremely hard to stay strong when she doesn't know us but we have to try," she added.
Kerry is calling on people to unite against dementia at a Memory Walk she has organised in aid of Alzheimer's Society.
She has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging people to get behind her event, which takes place in Coleraine on Sunday, September 23.
"My heart goes out to each and everyone else who is on this journey but hopefully together we can help raise awareness and funds to find a cure," she said.