Illawarra Memory Walk and Jog 2016: photos

Imelda Gilmore tries not to focus on what she and her husband Graham had before he was diagnosed at age 64 with younger onset dementia.

Instead she focusses on who he is today and how she can support him. A mother of four and grandmother to 16, with another on the way, Mrs Gilmore is not only an advocate for her husband of 45 years, but also a spokesperson for Alzheimer’s Australia helping to support others going through a similar journey.

“Putting someone you love in a nursing home is probably the hardest thing you will ever do in your life.”

“I don’t focus on what we had. I focus on who he is today. Everything he was is trapped in there somewhere and can just no longer get out,” Mrs Gilmore said.

Now aged 68, Mr Gilmore, who was once a senior administrator in the public service and responsible for managing millions of dollars, is now in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

He moved into a nursing home two-and-a-half years ago. His only remaining life skill is walking.

“Putting someone you love in a nursing home is probably the hardest thing you will ever do in your life.”

​“It’s excruciating to see a young man just disappearing. That never stops hurting.”

On Sunday Mrs Gilmore joined family members from Wollongong and New Zealand to take part in the Illawarra Memory Walk and Jog and help raise funds and awareness for the organisation that has helped her.

Together with her family, Mrs Gilmore has raised $3,447 for Alzheimers Australia to help support other families going through a similar experience.

​ All funds raised increase Alzheimer’s Australia NSW’s ability to provide vital support services including counselling, support groups, education to help family carers, and professional training in the Illawarra.  

“I knew nothing about the disease when Graham was first diagnosed and then I did the Living with Memory Loss course through Alzheimers Australia in 2012.

“I became equipped with what I was going to need for the journey that I was going to undertake.”

A record 1,300 people ran and walked this year’s event which has so far raised $35,000. More than 8,000 people are estimated to be affected by dementia in the Illawarra region.

“It was a lovely atmosphere. It was very inspiring to see everyone gathered for a cause. It warms my heart to see how keen people are to help.”

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW Chief Executive Officer John Watkins said it was a wonderful to see so many people participate.

“We are thrilled with the level of support and community spirit shown at today’s Memory Walk and Jog,” he said. An estimated 353,800 people have dementia in Australia. This number is projected to reach more than half a million by 2030.