Alzheimer's Society co-founder reflects on advancements on charity's 40th anniversary

Morella Kayman's husband was in his 40s when he first displayed signs of early onset dementia. There was little then in the way of support but the charity has helped bring about improvements


The Alzheimer's Society is marking its 40th anniversary with a tea party for staff at its offices today. But co-founder Morella Kayman recalls that things for affected families were very different in former times.

Now 85, Ms Kayman was in her 30s and her husband, Lawrence, in his 40s when he first displayed signs of early onset dementia. 

There was then little in the way of awareness or support for those dealing with the devastating effects of the condition. It took years to get a proper diagnosis and she was his carer for eight years.

“He was a lovely man,” she said, “but I didn’t know anyone going through what he was. It was very difficult. "There was no Jewish Care in those days and none of the Jewish homes would take him because he was too young."

Some support from Jewish day centres allowed her to keep on working "because I needed to provide for the family financially”.

Lawrence was finally accepted into a nursing home and when he died, Ms Kayman was herself recovering from cancer and had a young daughter to look after.

Determined that no one should have to go through what she did, she wrote a letter to a national newspaper to share her experience and outline her plans to set up a society that would raise awareness.

“I had hundreds of replies from others who were feeling the same as me. Many others were saying they wanted to help. 

A few weeks later, she helped establish the Alzheimer’s Society, which today employs more than 100 people.

The North Londoner, a member of Alyth Reform in Golders Green, is now its president and still gets emotional when witnessing the work of its dedicated staff. 

“They do everything for people - it means so much to me to see that people are not alone.”

The society has a budget of more than £100 million and, as well as helping individuals, funds research and lobbies the NHS to ensure it provides proper care for patients and families.

“There was nothing like this around when I was going through what I went through with my husband,” Ms Kayman reflected. “There was very little awareness and whatever you were dealing with was swept under the carpet.”

With around  850,000 people with dementia in the UK, she is proud of how the charity has created “awareness and even encouraged young people to get involved”. It works closely with Jewish Care.

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