A woman has bravely documented her father’s struggle against Alzheimer’s in a set of adorable pictures and videos – proving he can still “lead a happy life”.
Mariel Kirton, 21, started an inspirational blog to tackle the stigma that surrounds the brain disease in 2015.
Her father Ray, 58, was diagnosed with the condition around seven years ago and became one of only 4 per cent of people with Alzheimer’s under the age of 65.
Mariel’s instagram blog shares personal family moments through the dark illness – including when Ray donned a suit and stood throughout the entire Pride of Britain awards.
Speaking about that emotional evening, Mariel, of Leeds, West Yorks., said: “I love that post – it was so lovely to see him do that.”
There are other uploads that show Mariel how much of her father still remains, despite his illness.
She said: “One of my other favourite Instagram posts shows a Valentine’s card from each year for three years that I helped Dad to write.
“When you look at something like that, you see how much things change, but he still helps me write the kisses.
“I also like the ones where he dances around the living room and is really enjoying himself. He would be so happy and proud of the blog.”
Mariel is also keen to raise awareness about the condition through her uplifting posts and use the blog as a coping strategy for her family.
Of her decision to start the blog, Mariel said: “I noticed a few behaviours from Dad that I wanted to share with people.
“I thought it would just be for friends and a few of my family members. I didn’t think when I set it up that it would gain a lot of attention, it was really unexpected but obviously really nice.”
Mariel believes the blog has been a coping strategy for the rest of her family – Mum Kiron, 57 and sisters Lauren, 27, and Charys, 23 – and has received a mass of emotional support globally, including from as far reaching locations as America and China.
She added: “It is a positive spin on things and it is so nice to get attention and comments, people are more open about it and ask how Dad is and then you can talk about it more and open up.”
Mariel, who has just completed a Criminology degree at Leeds Beckett University, said her Dad’s deterioration has been hard to watch, but she is determined to show the positive aspects of the condition.
Her mother was a perfusionist – but had to leave her role to become a full time carer for Ray.
Speaking about the condition, Mariel said: “I was about 14 when Dad was diagnosed. I couldn’t really imagine it at that time.
“At the time, he was really normal and there was very little wrong with him, it was just making mistakes really but no real problems.
“I didn’t notice how much it would affect us or how much dad could change. My dad was a medical salesman, he was making mistakes at work and got put through a disciplinary.
“Now, he finds it difficult to do everyday tasks and I can see him changing every time I visit which is hard.
“Most things he could once do independently he can’t do anymore.
“It has been so gradual over seven years if you look at it day to day, but year to year there has been so many changes.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK have benefited from the blog and charity work that Mariel has carried out – with over £2,000 raised on her JustGiving site to date.
Tim Parry, Director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Mariel’s story is inspirational – tackling the stigma surrounding dementia is a challenge we face every day.
“Mariel has found a great way of sharing her family’s experience of dementia and capture the changes her family are presented with every day with heartwarming posts on Instagram.
“Her posts not only raise awareness surrounding Alzheimer’s disease but also give a message of hope.”
To support Mariel’s fundraising efforts or find out more about her story, visit: http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/mariel-and-ray-kirton/
To follow Ray’s journey on Instagram: www.instagram.com/endalzheimers_ray/