Alzheimer Scotland is a lifeline for Falkirk families

Wedding day...the photograph which takes pride of place in Stephen and Kathy McGeachie's home. Sadly, Stephen no longer recognises the couple pictured.
Wedding day...the photograph which takes pride of place in Stephen and Kathy McGeachie's home. Sadly, Stephen no longer recognises the couple pictured.

A wedding photo takes pride of place on the mantelpiece of the McGeachies home in Denny.

Kathy and Stephen will have been married for 58 years on October 1 this year.

On October 1, 2018, Stephen and his wife Kathy McGeachie, from, Denny, will have been married for 58 years. But the date will be lost on 81-year-old Stephen who has two types of dementia, as well as aphasia -meaning he can no longer communicate.

On October 1, 2018, Stephen and his wife Kathy McGeachie, from, Denny, will have been married for 58 years. But the date will be lost on 81-year-old Stephen who has two types of dementia, as well as aphasia -meaning he can no longer communicate.

But while Stephen will be able to give his wife a kiss on their anniversary, he won’t know what day it is.

Six years ago, the 81-year-old was diagnosed with mixed dementia.

And two years ago, Stephen ended up with aphasia after a partial anterior circulation stroke (PACS), leaving him unable to communicate verbally.

It’s been a tough, and often frustrating, journey for the couple, their three children – Rosemary (57), Jim (56) and Stephen (51) – and six grandchildren.

On honeymoon...in Blackpool 58 years ago. Stephen (81) and Kathie McGeachie (79) are still very much in love, despite dementia taking its toll in the last six years.

On honeymoon...in Blackpool 58 years ago. Stephen (81) and Kathie McGeachie (79) are still very much in love, despite dementia taking its toll in the last six years.

But the Falkirk Alzheimer Scotland group has been a tower of strength for the McGeachie family.

Kathy, who will turn 80 on October 3, has a dementia link worker to turn to for advice. And the couple have both met lots of new friends through the dementia café and singing group.

Indeed, nothing stands in their way of getting to the dementia café on a Thursday.

Kathy explained: “They changed the buses and it was taking more than an hour for us to get into Falkirk so we just go by taxi now.

“We wouldn’t miss it – there’s a big crowd of us who go along. It’s our day out and we both love it. I do all the blethering, mind you!

“Rosemary comes down to give Stephen a shave every week as we both gets hugs and kisses from everyone.

“You can tell the link workers if something is bothering you. They are all really good and awfy nice.”

Being in their company, even for a short time, it’s clear the McGeachies are still very much in love.

But while a smile is never far from Kathy’s lips, there’s a deep sadness there too.

She said: “My heart is broken but I keep laughing – that’s the way I cope.

“I’ve only broken down and cried once on Stephen’s shoulder. He was singing a song – he’s got a lovely voice – and it got to me a wee bit.

“He still looks the same and he’s still my big darling.

“But we’ve been married 58 years on October 1 and he doesn’t know my name.

“I’m always here, though, so he follows me around everywhere.

“He knows everyone’s face and understands what you’re saying; he does try to speak but he just can’t get it out. It’s frustrating for us both.”

Sadly, Stephen can no longer recognise himself in photographs or the mirror, which has resulted in some modifications.

Kathy said: “We have mirrored wardrobes in the bedroom but I’ve had to cover them up with a curtain.

“He was getting quite agitated at the reflection because he didn’t recognise himself in the mirror. He was scared of his reflection.

“Our wedding photo sits on top of the fireplace and he shrugs his shoulders when I ask him who it is.

“We met at St Modan’s High School when I was 12 and he was 13.

“He is originally from Fallin and I’m from Denny.

“We lost touch but, a few years later, we met again at the dancing at the Dobbie Hall and the rest is history.

“We got married when he was 23 and I was two days off being 22. His hair was jet black at the time and mine was red, thick and curly.

“But he doesn’t recognise the photo of us taken on our wedding day.”

Stephen, who retired from Tarmac 17 years ago, was, in fact, Kathy’s carer – she has suffered from arthritis for many years.

So she had no qualms about taking care of him when the tables turned.

Their children and grandchildren are also close at hand to support them.

“They come and do stuff for us all the time,” said Kathy. “Rosemary helps me keep the house tidy and Jim and Stephen help with DIY.

“Our grandchildren are in and out all the time too – it’s nice to know they’re there and we can rely on them.”

Kathy, who worked in the town’s Carrongrove Paper Mill for seven years, then Donaldson’s Café and as a primary school cleaner, regularly attends the Alzheimer Scotland singing group in Falkirk with Stephen, as well as Saturday night mass.

It gives her a chance to hear her husband’s singing voice once again.

She added: “I sing like a crow but Stephen is a brilliant singer.

“He can’t always get the right words but he does enjoy it and that’s the main thing.

“There are two hymns he sings word perfect at mass, though, probably because he’s heard them so often.

“It’s the only time I really get to hear his voice; it’s lovely to listen to him.”

Sign up for memory walk

We can all do our bit to help local families, just like the McGeachies, this month.

For the Forth Valley Memory Walk will be held at Stirling University Innovation Park on Sunday, September 16. Take the shorter 2.6K walk for a gentle stroll around the beautiful lake which is suitable for walkers of all ages, including pushchairs and wheelchairs.

The longer 5.6K walk will take you further round the campus.

Online registration is available until Monday, September 10, priced £10 for adults, £5 for those aged 12 to 16 and free for under 12s. On the day, registration opens at noon at Scion House but it costs £15 (cash) for adults. Both walks will kick off at 1pm.

There are around 90,000 people living with dementia in Scotland and it is now estimated that 20,000 people will be diagnosed with the condition every year by 2020. Henry Simmons, Alzheimer Scotland’s chief executive, said: “Our Memory Walks are a great way for people to come together to help us raise awareness about dementia and vital funds to support people living with the condition in our local communities.

“Every penny raised will go towards our goal – making sure that no-one faces dementia alone.

“Our local resource hubs are committed to providing the best possible care, support and information for everyone living with dementia.

“They also work to ensure people with dementia and their carers are valued in their local communities.

“Every step walkers take next Sunday in Stirling will help us make a difference.”

So grab your boots and help Alzheimer Scotland make sure no-one faces dementia alone.

For more information and to sign up today visit www.memorywalksscotland.org.