A renowned Belfast businessman has spoken of how he “found solace” by using his passion for playing the piano to make a charity CD after being diagnosed with dementia.
Kevin McAlindon (79) was well-known as the chairman of Direct Wine Shipments. He and his family were told the devastating news in August 2013 that he had the degenerative condition.
“At first when I heard the words vascular dementia I was frightened,” he said.
“But then after a few months I got used to it.”
Mr McAlindon, who learned to play the piano by ear when he was a child, decided to focus on his love of music.
His son Neal explained: “It has been a very difficult road for all concerned. There was a period of a few years where his memory wasn’t as good as it was and then he was getting more and more frustrated that he couldn’t remember things.”
Neal said his father had retired from Direct Wine Shipments 14 years ago but it remained a part of his life.
“But he still did work every Christmas up until about three years ago. The older generation of customers would like to see him, but he would come in and forget what he had been saying to people and was angst-ridden.”
According to Alzheimer’s Society research, it was predicted that by 2015 there will be 20,966 people living with dementia in Northern Ireland. It was in August 2013 that Kevin, a father-of-three, was finally diagnosed with vascular dementia.
Neal, who also works at Direct Wine Shipments, added: “We thought when the diagnosis occurred we wanted him to keep his mind active. He didn’t play golf or anything like that. But we knew that if you play the piano it can help dementia. One day we said: ‘Why don’t you do a recording for charity?’. And it started from there.”
Kevin then recorded 10 tracks in a studio in Newtownabbey for the CD entitled Music On My Mind and is now planning to perform across Co Antrim.
The pensioner, who lives with his wife of 52 years Carol in Carrickfergus, said: “It has given me a focus and happiness and I do think it has helped a great deal. I play every day and it has given me a real sense of release.”
Mr McAlindon, who has been in the wine business in Northern Ireland since he was 18, said: “I’m not as good as the professionals but I’m good at entertaining people. It was difficult hearing the words that you had demenita.
“But I’ve now got no bones about saying to people: ‘I’ve dementia’. Once you reach the stage where you accept what you’ve got it is a question of moving on as best you can.”
The CD entitled Music On My Mind is available from Direct Wine Shipments in Belfast, priced £10. All proceeds go to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Dementia is a progressive disorder that affects how your brain works and in particular the ability to remember, think and reason. Dementia is predominantly a condition that affects older people although it affects people under 65 too. It is estimated that there are around 800,000 in the UK with dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s disease. Another is vascular dementia.
Article by Victoria O’hara, www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk