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Alzheimer’s Society kicks off a second International with The FA

In stands and homes across the nation, football has given us some iconic memories that will remain forever etched in the minds of millions. Stadiums have been historic stages for some incredible goals, saves, celebrations and tears – unforgettable for most fans. But sadly, for many people living with dementia, they will lose the precious memories they have collected over a lifetime.

With 1 in 3 people born in the UK today going on to develop dementia, Alzheimer’s Society is The Football Association’s (FA) official charity partner, supporting players and fans who have been devastated by dementia. The partnership aims to:

- Raise crucial funds for support services and increase awareness of the support available.

- Increase people’s understanding of dementia and end stigma, creating facilities where fans affected by dementia can enjoy watching sport for longer

- Support The FA’s research, providing expertise to give us more answers and best protect players for generations to come.

As part of this partnership, this April’s England v Australia match has been dedicated as an ‘Alzheimer’s Society International’, raising vital funds and awareness of the charity’s life- changing support, which offers help and hope to thousands. Last year, the charity’s support services were used over 4.5 million times, a lifeline to thousands who are going through some of the hardest and most frightening times and don’t know where to turn.

Kate Lee, Alzheimer’s Society CEO: “Right now, there are too many people facing dementia alone and without the right support.  With The FA’s backing and support, we can reach more people than ever before, and we can reach them sooner.   “There’s no doubt that people of all ages and backgrounds are connected by memories of football. The sport has an unrivalled ability to bring people and communities together, which is why we’re asking fans up and down the country to get behind this important cause and donate whatever they can, so no-one must face dementia alone.

The fixture, hosted at Brentford FC’s Gtech Community Stadium, will see the unveiling of a striking mural by sports correspondent Carrie Brown. The large-scale art installation, designed by MurWalls, will capture key moments of England Women’s football – with fans being encouraged to add their most unforgettable memories to the mural.

Carrie Brown: My dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2014 and was cared for by my mum. She did all the research with me and my siblings, and Alzheimers Society’s website was a helpful reference. 

Dad was still fiercely independent, and losing his memory was hard for him. We learnt to give him space to find the words and reassure him. For a man who had always been so independent and bright, it was crushing for his pride. Hugs helped.

Mum’s dementia became urgently apparent when she tripped over her dog and broke her hip in the kitchen. Fortunately, my brother was there, but the ambulance took five hours to arrive, and she had to wait for an operation. Unfortunately, being incapacitated for so long, it appeared mum had delirium. The family thought it was simply this when she was released and started hallucinating. Mum was admitted into a dementia ward.

It was all so heart-breaking for the family. Both mum and dad improve when the other is struggling, coming to their aid in times of need. Mum uses a wheelchair but has her words, so she talks for dad and helps him. Dad can still walk and loves wheeling mum around the care home. They are quite the double act. The care home is incredible and that rollercoaster of emotion reached a positive peak at the World Cup. Mum wasn't dealing with me being away and was upset when I left. When we connected on Facetime after the England v Iran match, their amazing carer Martha, who is just 19, warned me that Mum didn't believe I was in Qatar and was cross I hadn't visited.

So I needed to prove I was in Qatar.  I was showing mum all the "Qatar 2022" signs in the tunnel when Raheem Sterling saw I was on a FaceTime call and jumped in on the call. When Raheem saw it was a care home, he called over Kieran Trippier too. It meant the world to me; my parents used to know exactly who Raheem and Kieran were. Now? They were just delighted to meet some of the people I work with. 

My sisters, who carry much of our parent's care, were blown away when they heard Zoe Ball recounting the story on her BBC radio show. My parents were farmers who would rise with the sun and wouldn't stop until News at Ten, their golden hour. Following a football club wasn’t an option; weekends were always the busiest on the farm. But they stopped and downed tools for England and international football - friendly or not.

For football, rugby and the Olympics, they sat down and loved it. I can't remember another time I saw them in front of a television in the daytime - too much to do. I find football a great help and leveller even now. Dad can sit and watch for 90 minutes as we all do, in silence, without having to remember a name - or helpfully having the names right there to see on the shirts. He experiences the goals, VAR decisions, groans and celebrations with everyone in the room - just as he always had. My considerable sadness is that mum cannot come to any of the Lionesses games now; she would love it. When I travelled as a fan to France to see the Lionesses play in the World Cup semi-final in Lyon, Mum wanted all the details. You can imagine how wonderful they found the Women's Euro final last summer. Mum's smile was priceless. Dad has one word he uses, and it's "wonderful" on that day, he repeated it constantly. 

You can help make sure every football fan or player gets the support they need by donating to Alzheimer’s Society. Or, if you, or someone you know, needs dementia support, call Alzheimer’s Society on 0333 150 3456 or visit alzheimers.org.uk Join in the conversation online #TheForgottenThird

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