Jul 122017

Progressive and eventually debilitating, Alzheimer’s disease is devastating. Just ask anyone who knows or loves someone with the disease. Sadly, that includes many of us.

Dom Moloney lost his grandfather, Arthur, to the disease. His wife lost her great aunt Milly, who was like a mother to her when she was younger.

Dom is from the United Kingdom and works at PRA Health Sciences, where he is getting ready to be part of a cycling event with more than 100 of his colleagues from 15 different countries.  PRA Cares: Vienna to Prague will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, and from July 12-16, the team will travel approximately 100 kilometers (70 miles) per day. 

We spoke to Dom about the event and his personal connection to Alzheimer’s.

Can you tell us about the people you have lost to Alzheimer’s?

My grandfather, Arthur, died of vascular dementia and my wife’s great aunt Milly died of Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago. Arthur had a strong influence on me from a young age. He was a very spiritual man and had a brilliant sense of humor. He was there at many of the important moments in my life, including being my sponsor at confirmation. I have many happy memories of playing as a child at his house; holidaying together; and, after his wife died, helping him in his garden. My favorite memory was the first time he met my then girlfriend (now wife) but without looking up, assumed it was my sister. His first greeting to her was, “Hello O pregnant one…” Obviously everyone fell about laughing whilst my very slim girlfriend looked around for my very pregnant sister!

Milly looked after my wife and taught her many life skills. Milly was very mischievous and always had a cheeky glint in her eye. She was always a little batty and often played for attention by pretending to forget things. This made it all the harder when Alzheimer’s disease set in, as we never knew when she was just playing around and when she really couldn’t remember where the bathroom was in her one-bedroom flat!

What do you think is the most difficult aspect of the disease?

There are many things that make Alzheimer’s difficult.  The fact that someone you love not only doesn’t recognize you but sometimes thinks you’re coming to do them harm, or mistakes you for someone they used to love…it’s hard. One time, my grandfather saw my mother and her brother and asked where Margaret was. (Margaret was his first wife who had died a decade or more earlier.) When they broke it gently to him, he was distraught. It was only after several minutes they realized he meant my mother and just got the name wrong and hadn’t recognized her.

Physically, Alzheimer’s destroys people. Milly was never a small woman and must have weighed 15 or 16 stone when she first went to the hospital. By the end, she had literally shriveled to a 5-stone shell with paper-thin skin covering her bones. She ‘drank’ water from a toothbrush as she was too weak to use a cup.

What helped you and your family during this difficult time?

We are very fortunate to have two sons of our own who were quite young at the time Milly was in hospital. They would often come to visit with us, and the people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the hospital would all coo over these beautiful children.  Seeing the light that a little bit of youth brought to their day – or just someone to talk to – really cheered them up, which in turn helped us. Ultimately, we relied on each other as a family to get through the tough times.

What advice would you give someone who might first be learning that a loved one has been diagnosed with the disease?

Be patient and loving. Alzheimer’s confuses the person living with it and frustrates them enormously. Simply sitting with them and holding their hand is often enough for them. And use the periods of clarity – even when quite far gone, you may get short bursts of clarity where you’re recognized or a shared memory resurfaces. Grab these times and enjoy the moment. Be kind, be loving and cherish every moment. And when at last they pass on, rejoice that they are no longer in distress.

 Are you hopeful that we will find a cure?

Alzheimer’s is a horrific disease and I have to believe we will one day find a cure. I never wish to see anyone suffer as Milly did – or her family and friends.

Knowing your personal connection to the disease and the fact that PRA Cares: Vienna to Prague will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, how does this cycle event take on added significance for you?

Whilst I always loved cycling as a child, I’d not done it for 25 years until last year when my sister wanted to do a crazy challenge raising money for multiple sclerosis (MS) charities. We cycled up the Col du Galibier (a French Alp on the Tour de France route), raising £2500 (more than $3200) in the process.  I loved being on the bike, out in nature and raising money for a good cause, so when the opportunity came up to cycle with PRA to raise money for Alzheimer’s, a cause that is so close to my heart, I had to do it.

Last year, when the going got tough, I remembered those people I know battling MS. This year, I’ll remember Arthur and Milly; their memory will get me up the steep hills and through the last 10 km!


  3 Responses to “Remembering Those We Loved and Lost to Alzheimer’s”

  1. Hi My name is Allesa Duvenary, I lost my dad ( Walter Lee Nellum Jr.) to alz, and it was the hardest experience I every had, to watch him go from busy body to losing motor skills to losing his voice and than his life, However, I kept him in the present as long as I could, and talk to him on the phone as long as I could, and the only thing I could do when he lose all abilities was gone was to touch, caress and kiss him. I was a CNA, when I first experience my knowledge of alz, and it was so sad, because family is what keeps them thriving to live, those I cared for family in that facility didn’t come to visit, then to have my personal experience with dad, that was so emotional and hard, because it was personal, However , God gave me grace to understand and my family was a major support in the times of no communication with dad until his death. The KEY for me; and to families members who has those who suffer with alz, is keep them in reality as long as possible, and never stop communication with touches and kisses. .

  2. Great job

    Galiz Research in Miami, Florida takes pride in helping fight Alzheimer’s

    Galiz Research not only conduct many trials for AD treatments but also we established a non-profit 5013(c) Foundation called “Galiz Cycling Foundation”

    we promote health and fitness by promoting cycling in the south florida area.

    some of the donations received go towards needed caregivers of AD patients.

    Great job Mr Dom Moloney on your fight against AD.

    if you ever in the South Florida area, we invite you to ride your bike with us (every Saturday & Sunday)

    thank you

    Luis Pedraza,CCRC

    Galiz Research

    Galiz Cycling

  3. Very cool way to support research for this devastating disease while at the same time promoting a very healthy activity and lifestyle. I feel for anyone that has suffered from this disease and their loved ones. We can only hope and pray for a better future when this disease is no longer a certain death sentence. So when someone like Dom takes a stand, I have to commend that person. I am frustrated though that almost all the information I see about the disease is related to older human beings. My family is afflicted with a gene mutation that assures some of us of having early onset. I have lost a father, brother, and two sisters, all who initially showed signs of the disease in young to mid thirties. They all lost the prime of their years in raising their children and families. And now we have to worry about their children. This is not a disease that just afflicts older people. It afflicts people of all ages, both directly and indirectly. The suffering and pain is much greater than most people realize.

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