Retired Canterbury headteacher releases Alzheimer’s book

‘Dear Alzheimer’s’ – retired primary school head teacher, Keith Oliver, will be holding a talk at Waterstones, Canterbury next Friday, about his book.

The 63-year-old published the book in April, 2019, but is holding a book signing, in order to promote the book and raise awareness about Dementia.

The book is called Dear Alzheimer’s: a diary of living with Dementia and was published by Jessica Kingsley publishing.

It’s a story of Keith’s life over the last 7 or 8 years, told through a diary format, which was written in a reflective journal style, alongside some letters which he wrote to this character called ‘Alzheimer’s’, which is really the disease, that lurks inside his head. Keith was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 8 years ago, at age 55.

The book also has some items of poetry that Keith wrote, and a film script, and an interview with some Canterbury Christ Church and University of Kent students.

Approximately 90 tickets have currently been sold.

Keith said: “It would be lovely to pass the 100 mark. The idea is that people pay £3, and they’ll be wine and refreshments, and then that £3 is reimbursed when people buy a book. And what I’ll do is, ill talk about the book and about my life for a period of time and then they’ll be a question and answer and then they’ll be a chance to buy the book and for me to sign it and for people to talk and chat.”

Photo of Keith Oliver

Importance of raising awareness

“It is really important because Alzheimer’s is probably the biggest health threat to this society that we live in”.

There are currently approximately 850,000 people living with the disease. Keith said: “Currently the best guess is that we’ve got 850,000 people living with it. Of whom over 40,000 are youngsters, like myself. That means that they’re on set of their dementia was before the age of 65.

“I know people in their 30s who have dementia as well. Very, very rare, but it does happen. And the cost to the individual, and the cost to the society, not just financially, but by way of the impact the disease has on people is enormous. And for too long it has been swept under the carpet and has been disregarded by health, social care and by politicians. That now has got to stop. And hopefully my book will help contribute towards awareness raising and in turn, further action to support people living with dementia and carers who live with us.”

 

 

What it’s like living with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gradually worsens over time. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events.

“It’s also a bit like having an image in your mind, and someone has got a hole punch, and punched holes in it”.

Keith explained what it’s like living with Alzheimer’s, he said: “Probably the best way to answer that is to talk about the fact that, using metaphors to help, in my case, it’s like driving along a road in the fog, where by sometimes the fog is pea-soup thick, sometimes its misty, sometimes the fog lifts and its clear. That’s what a normal day will be like for me with Alzheimer’s. It’s like living in a fog”.

He added: “Sometimes they’re a few holes, so the image is quite intact and the memory is reasonably intact. Sometimes it’s very, very obscured and you can’t decipher what you’re looking at”.

 

“Dementia is an umbrella term and there are approx. 70-80 different diseases and conditions that form part of dementia. I’ve got the most common type which is Alzheimer’s, which effects about 70% of those living with dementia.”

 

What Keith hopes for the book

Keith hopes that the book gives people hope. He said: “I hope that it gives people encouragement and maybe even some inspiration to first of all, live life to the full, and to live each day as it comes, which is vitally important.”

 

Photo of Keith Oliver

 

Watch the full video here.