A mother has spoken of the agony of seeing her daughter bedbound in a care home, unable to recognise her own children.
Rita Pepper, 61, has become the sole carer of her two grandchildren while making daily trips to see her 39-year-old daughter Carla Bramall, who requires 24 hour care.
Carla was diagnosed with a rare genetic form of Alzheimer’s when she was just 36.
What makes Rita’s torment even worse is her sense of deja vu – her husband Barry was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at exactly the same age. He died in 1993 when he was 43.
Barry moved to Luton from Sunderland to work at Vauxhall while Rita was a senior assistant in the menswear department at Littlewoods.
The couple married in 1976 and had two children - Carla and her younger brother Lee.
Rita recalled: “Carla was born in 1977, the year of the Jubilee – and I believe the first Luton carnival.
“We lived in Marsh Farm and then Barry was offered a job as a woodwork instructor at a home for the mentally handicapped. He absolutely loved it and was thrilled to meet Princess Diana while he was there.” It was around this time that Barry became ill and they struggled to get a diagnosis. He eventually died in a nursing home.
Rita moved from Luton to be closer to Carla, a jury officer at Northampton Crown Court.
She tried to prepare herself for the probability one of her children might develop the condition after being informed Barry had an inherited or familial form of the disease – she knew they had a 50/50 chance of having the same rare faulty gene.
“But watching your own child go through it is indescribably painful, it breaks your heart,” she said. “Carla deteriorated so quickly. I visit her every day and hope she might recognise me. But she has regular seizures and I cry every time I leave.
“My granddaughter knows her mum is ill but it’s hard for her to understand, she’s only just realising she won’t get any better. The last time the grandchildren visited they left in floods of tears.”
Memories of Barry are still raw. Rita recalled: “When Barry died Carla was screaming ‘Don’t close your eyes, Dad.’”
Lee was equally devastated by his sister’s diagnosis. He said: “It was gut-wrenching. I felt like I was reliving my childhood all over again.”
Mother and son are desperate to raise money for research. They realise it may be too late for their own family, but they’re keen to save others from experiencing their grief. They’re raising money for Alzheimer’s Research UK in a bid to increase awareness.
> Go to www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/carla/