Campaign continues for Torquay dementia patient Norrms in year ahead
DEMENTIA patient Norman MacNamara has had an amazing year. His campaign to highlight the illness has caught the eye of the Prime Minister, he has been named South West local hero in the Pride of Britain Awards and is advising the government on dementia policies. It may not be the life Norrms expected when he was diagnosed with dementia, aged 50. But, as he explained to reporter HANNAH FINCH, he is 'annoyingly optimistic.'
NORRMS MacNamara is in the early stages of dementia.
But instead of sitting back and letting it happen, he has decided to confront it head on.
And not just for his own sake but all the other present and future sufferers of the condition.
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The grandfather has been campaigning for 11 months to make Torbay 'dementia friendly' with the Torbay Dementia Action Alliance. But that is only the tip of the iceberg.
He wants everyone to be able to spot the signs and has been asking businesses to sign up.
They need to ask their staff to read a few pages of literature about the condition in exchange for becoming 'dementia friendly' with a sticker in the shop window to prove it.
Norrms said: "I'm not asking for people to study for an NVQ, it is just about spreading awareness."
So far, 74 businesses have signed up with big names like train firm First Group, Stagecoach buses and Tor2 backing the cause.
Norrms said: "Torbay businesses have been brilliant.
"I have been completely overwhelmed by how supportive people have been."
It is his 'just do it' attitude that has caught the eye of PM David Cameron who championed Norrms' cause when he launched the government's Dementia Challenge.
Over dinner at 10 Downing Street the PM told Norrms that all eyes were on the success of the Torbay campaign.
Norrms said: "That was amazing. When he was launching his plans, I cheekily told him that we had got there first and that is how he responded. Brilliant."
Norrms said that his high-profile role has topped an incredible year.
The Torbay Dementia Awareness Alliance was only started in January.
Norrms enthused: "I have been to Downing Street twice, advising for the Department of Health. It has been an incredible 11 months.
"But I could not have done it without Elaine, she is my full-time carer.
"It is OK for me to come up with all the ideas but I could not do it without my wife, friends and family."
Speaking with Norrms at his flat at Dunboyne Court, Torquay, you would be hard pressed to notice that he had any medical condition at all.
He seems bright, collected and in good health.
But that is not always the case.
Norrms said: "I like to say that what you see is what you get but the down side is if you came to see me at 7pm I would not be the same person.
"I can't shower or dress myself, Elaine does that. I have lost my life skills, I can't cross the roads by myself and I have night terrors. Poor Elaine has got by on four hours a night for the past seven years. She is a remarkable lady."
Norrms was diagnosed seven years ago when he was working as a store manager at Focus in Torquay.
He said it was the most devastating news and came just four months after a diagnosis of heart problems.
He could find no provision for younger patients or those in early stages of the illness.
He says: "That has got to change. When I was first diagnosed, it was the most devastating news.
"I was really poorly and could hardly speak but with the right drugs it was like being given my life back."
People need to know how to recognise the symptoms so they can deal with it early and to keep themselves active.
Norrms said: "I describe it as like seeing a Christmas tree festooned with lights and every now and again a light goes off.
"But if you keep yourself active and your brain active then every now and again, a light will come back on."
Norrms is determined to keep active for as long as he can and he is excited by the year ahead.
He says: "I am going to keep campaigning for as long as I can. It keeps me active and keeps my brain ticking over."
And with so many projects in the pipeline, there is no fear about that.
Visit Norrms' website at tdaa.co.uk