Alzheimer’s Society launches crucial programme to support footballers and coaches

Football / Mon 13th Feb 2023 at 09:31am

ALZHEIMER’S Society has partnered with the London Football Association (FA) to offer help and hope to anyone who has been diagnosed with dementia or caring for a loved one in the capital.

As part of the charity’s national partnership with the FA, support schemes have been launched in FA counties across England. The new referral pathways into Alzheimer’s Society services make it easier and quicker for players, coaches, referees, staff and fans in London to access support or guidance needed when concerns arise about themselves or a loved one.

Participants will benefit from practical and emotional support from Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Advisers who provide practical advice, emotional support and guidance for the best next step. Alzheimer’s Society services have been used more than 4.2 million times in the past year across the UK, proving to be a lifeline for thousands.

London FA are responsible for the governance of football in London and work with 3,300 teams.

London FA Disability and Inclusion Officer, Conor Brearty said: “I have first-hand experience because of my grandmother’s dementia diagnosis, so know how it impacts families and that it can be lonely when there is no-one to lean upon.

“Support from people who really understand the disease and can empathise is vital when navigating through someone’s dementia journey. We will run sessions for our clubs so they are also more aware of symptoms as people think it is solely about memory loss, but that is not the case.

“Some people do not feel comfortable discussing dementia with relatives at first so we want to be a welcoming and listening ear for anyone in the London football community.

“Dementia diagnosis rates are low because people with concerns are not seeking assessment, rather living in denial. We hope this programme acts as an extra pathway for people in London to step forward.

“Admitting you have worries and seeking an assessment is daunting. But if a person’s initial discussion is with fellow football people at London FA in an environment they feel relaxed, it may reassure them about the process.

“There is a fear that a dementia diagnosis stops someone being involved in football. However, a diagnosis allows you to access all the support services available and people can still enjoy football after a diagnosis, albeit sometimes in a slightly different way.”

Tony Hoad is a lifelong West Ham fan having lived in East London for 40 years and looks after his wife Anne, 71, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

He explained: “Anne and I had season tickets together at both Upton Park and Olympic Stadium. We could walk to the stadium and went to matches across the country together which gave us wonderful memories. My first game was 1957 and her family all loved it, too.

“Our three children all enjoy football and still go to matches, so it is a family affair.

“The initial signs things were off with Anne came seven years ago, but I put it down to just getting older. She was going to games after her diagnosis, but Anne’s decline has been progressive and in the past six months she cannot now make breakfast and struggles dressing herself.

“People certainly do suffer in silence and hopefully this programme gets people in London talking, opening up and seeking support when there are concerns. That would be fantastic because it helps discussing issues with people who understand dementia as they can offer advice or point you in the right direction.”

Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, Kate Lee, added: “Sport should be unforgettable. We want to make sure those who are part of the beautiful game are not sidelined due to their diagnosis and can continue to live fulfilled and meaningful lives by receiving the right support from day one.

“No-one should face a dementia diagnosis alone, nor suffer in silence, which is why we are proud to be working closely with London FA to embed our services and make sure thousands more have somewhere to turn to during one of the most frightening and toughest times in their lives.”

The partnership with Alzheimer’s Society is also raising funds for support services. Alzheimer’s Society will work with The FA to provide research expertise and ensure The FA is prioritising and funding world-class research to best protect players for generations to come.

The charity has also directly funded its own research with former football and rugby players, as part of the PREVENT study.

To find out more about Alzheimer’s Society’s partnership with The FA, or donate, visit alzheimers.org.uk/FA

Anyone worried about their memory can download the Alzheimer’s Society symptoms checklist, endorsed by the Royal College of GPs, to support people to get a diagnosis.

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