Dementia campaigner and carer Jo Earlam gives a very personal perspective on dementia in a world preoccupied with coronavirus. Jo lives in Devon with her husband, John, and has supported BRACE for many years. 

As global humanity, we have been living with Coronavirus for many weeks now, its deadly impact restricting everything we do.

Politicians, scientists, and other community leaders are seeking a vaccine, a cure, a way of countering the disease, looking for an end game, an exit strategy to take us beyond this locked down life.

It is incredible how the world has been galvanised to fight this silent, unseen taker of loved ones before their time, families terrified by this indiscriminate killer in their midst.

I recognise their sad eyes, I empathise with their pain, I see the politicians floundering for an answer and know how they feel – impotent, helpless, desperate.

I’ve known these feelings since I was a child and I stood at the end of my wonderful, capable grandmother’s nursing home bed, watching her wither away and die – beyond medical science, beyond her family’s love for her, beyond any hope of being saved.

Granny, then in her early 70s, had been diagnosed with "senile dementia". Her doctors said there was nothing they could do. The rest of her life would be restricted, and she would die of this disease from which there was no cure.

That was 45 years ago.

Since then, I’ve watched close friends and other family members, my Nan, my own father die from this cruel twist of fate, falling ill from a disease which in 2020 still has no cure, no real prevention of the impact, limited prospects to escape the locked down world it leads to.

When Dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2011, at the age of 70, I embarked on a furious fundraising challenge – I say furious deliberately – I was so angry and desperate I naively felt if I threw enough effort into getting more money for research, scientists might, just might find a cure in time for Dad.

He died on 5th April 2015, eight weeks before I completed my 50th marathon for BRACE, raising £6,500 in what was a bitter-sweet moment.

I watched my Mum care day after day for Dad. Sadly, she died two years later April 2017. In the June of that year, on my 20th wedding anniversary, my husband John was diagnosed with early stage dementia. The tears I wept were from more than 40 years of knowing the sad inevitability of that diagnosis.

As I care for John in lockdown with all the challenging issues that brings, I hold on to hope that combined human knowledge will find an answer to combat Coronavirus.

And that my lifelong hope to witness the defeat of dementia, is not in vain.