14th May, 2021

Debbie puts best foot forward ahead of gruelling challenge

Rob George 22nd Mar, 2021

A COUNTY woman has walked more than one million steps in training as she prepares for a 13-mile hike in the Malvern Hills to raise vital funds in the battle against dementia.

Debbie Folkes, 60, has joined thousands of determined Alzheimer’s Society supporters, all conquering their own walking challenges, after losing her mum to dementia in December 2020.

As part of Debbie’s training and to give her focus, she has walked up to 10 miles a day since she signed up to Alzheimer’s Society’s virtual Memory Walk, which is taking place throughout March, clocking up an incredible one million steps in the process. Debbie, who four years ago was diagnosed with the autoimmune condition Polymyalgia rheumatica, which results in pain and stiffness in the muscles caused by inflammation, has already raised almost £1500, triple her original £500 fundraising goal.

She said: “My lovely mum was diagnosed with dementia last April and sadly passed away in December.

“After her diagnosis, my brother and I went into overdrive to try to keep mum safe and happy. She struggled with hallucinations which were hard for us to cope with. We had a terrifying moment in June 2020, when she wandered out of her house for the first time and was walking the streets throughout the night until a local person managed to find her the next morning.

“It has been a difficult time, but we were helped by the endless support and advice available from the Alzheimer’s Society. She deteriorated quite quickly, but our days were not all dark ones. Mum still had her sense of humour, and we want to remember that.

“I wanted to do something in her memory, and while I thought it was too soon when I first heard about the Memory Walk shortly after she died, I decided, why not now.

“I am already a walker, but I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, and so alongside my old friend, Jane, who is walking to support St Richards Hospice, we have decided to trek a half marathon in the Malvern Hills.

“I have previously done the Malvern Hills End to End Walk, which is just over 9 miles and extremely strenuous, so knowing how hard that was, it is going to be a difficult challenge.

“Since signing up on the 22 January I have walked over 500 miles and have been blessed to be joined by various friends along the way who have been incredibly supportive.”

Debbie will join thousands of supporters, all marching out and completing their own Memory Walk, sponsored by Santander, throughout March. People can sign up for free and choose a location to suit them.

Her commitment comes at a critical time for those affected by dementia. People with dementia have been worst hit by coronavirus in terms of deaths, both from the virus and knock-on effects of lockdown – thousands have seen their health deteriorate and mental health decline as a result of having little social contact and interruptions to essential care and support. Thousands of family carers have also been in complete despair because of care home visitor bans and a lack of respite.

Kumbi Mandinyenya, Alzheimer’s Society Area Manager, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for families affected by dementia. People living with the disease need us now more than ever, but the pandemic has hit us hard financially, despite an unprecedented demand for our services.

“We want to thank Debbie and everyone taking part in a walking event for us. Money raised will help Alzheimer’s Society reach and support more people through our vital services, like the Dementia Connect support line, which has been used almost three million times in the UK since March 2020.

“We are in awe of the resilience of supporters like Debbie, whose dedication to fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society ensures that we are able to support those who need it most during this difficult period.”

If you would like to take part in a trek or Memory Walk for Alzheimer’s Society, visit alzheimers.org.uk/events to sign up today.

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