It has been described by one of the country’s leading authors as an ‘inhuman condition’, reducing the final years of sufferers to a long, bad dream.

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 400,000 Britons – all of whom face years battling a degenerative condition which, at the moment, has no hope of a cure.

Now Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has teamed up with author Sir Terry Pratchett to highlight the cause in a bid to generate more funding for research into dementia.

And as the two men make preparations to push the cause to the heart of the upcoming election campaign, I met a local couple who are learning to live with the condition.

Lynda Duttine and her husband, Alan, are in their early 60s.

Fit, physically healthy and full of enthusiasm for life, they should be looking forward to the new-found freedom enjoyed by so many couples during their retirement years.

Instead, they are trying to cope with early onset Alzheimer’s after Alan was diagnosed aged just 58.

Alan, now 63, was an active businessman running his own successful company when he first began to notice difficulties.

As president of a trades association in Europe and managing director of his own firm, Airedale International Air Conditioning, he was used to spending his time writing reports and holding conferences.

But in his late 50s, he began to experience some difficulties at work, noticeably during presentations.

Lynda explained: “In the middle of doing a presentation or talking to people he would find that his focus would suddenly go blank. We had discussed it and thought it was probably down to stress.

“But we felt we really needed to find out for sure if anything was going on because even at that stage, we both realised something was very different.”

Alan went to see his GP and was referred to a neuro psychologist for various tests.

A number of conditions, including a brain tumour, were quickly ruled out – leaving only one thing: Alzheimer’s.

Lynda said: “I think the best way to describe our reaction was to say that we were numb to begin with. Alan had travelled all over, ran his own business and then we were told he had Alzheimer’s. I wasn’t angry, although we have both been incredibly frustrated at times, but there was a sadness.”

Alan, who has four children and four grandchildren, cut down his hours at work but after a while was forced to sell the business.

He has a particular form of early onset Alzheimer’s known as progressive aphasia. Basically, he has trouble with vocabulary, remembering certain words, and now has difficulty with reading and writing.

Lynda said: “It's quite difficult to explain but basically if I asked him to pass a hammer, he might pass me something else instead because he has forgotten the word hammer.

“It is so frustrating for him but he has always been a very determined man, and although he has lost some of his words, he is still very much Alan.

“He was always a quiet man but I think perhaps is even quieter now because it is difficult for him when we are in company.

“But he has a great sense of humour, which he is still very much able to communicate, especially with his grandchildren, and we are taking the time to enjoy every moment we can.”

Lynda, who looks much younger than her 61 years, says that her faith – she is a member of Christchurch on the Grove – as well as support from friends, family and the Bradford Alzheimer’s Society, have given her great strength over the past few years.

She said: “I do believe my faith has helped a great deal as well as my friends and family.

“The Alzheimer's Society has also been fantastic. With Alan being quite a bit younger than other sufferers of the disease, some of the events organised by the society are not really for us but I can see that they would be very much a comfort to other people.

“But what was a great help was a workshop they held on coping with forgetfulness. There were many strategies given to both carers and sufferers and I thought it was really worthwhile.

“As a carer I have to speak to Alan in quite simple sentences but in a way that respects his dignity. It can be frustrating for both of us. Obviously Alan knows what is happening and it isn’t easy.

“But through my work at the church I have seen the depth of the human spirit and have seen how people have the capability to cope in difficulties and we will keep with it.”

Keeping fit is one way that Alan and Lynda cope. She said: “Alan and I like to keep fit and go walking a lot we have just come back from a walking holiday in Scotland. He has difficulty with map reading now but physically he is still a very fit man and one of the things that really keeps him going is his passion for rugby.

“He loves it and I really see him being himself when he is watching rugby. It is also a great way for his sons to communicate with him and is his real passion in life.

“We don’t know really quite what the future holds but we know it is a degenerative condition and, of course, there’s no cure.

“But Alan has always been his own man, a very determined man, and he achieved a lot over the years. We just have to readjust but it’s not easy.”

Anyone who suspect they may be suffering from Alzheimer’s or who is caring for a relative with the condition should contact two sources for help.

The Alzheimer’s Society for the Ilkley area is based in Bradford. A membership organisation, it works to improve the quality of life of people suffering from dementia.

The society has a base in over 250 locations across the UK where staff and volunteers work to provide help and information to people with the condition. Services include day care and home care as well as support and befriending services to help partners and families cope with the demands of caring.

They also provide practical sessions, including Alzheimer’s Cafés which are run twice a month in Ilkley at the Clarke Foley Centre on the second Tuesday and fourth Wednesday of the month between 1.30pm and 3.30pm.

A feature of the cafés is entertainment and music, which provides a vital key to remembering.

The Bradford Branch can be contacted on 01274 733880.

Alternatively information can be found at the Alzheimer’s Research Trust on The trust is the UK’s leading research charity for dementia and is dedicated to funding scientific studies to find ways to treat, cure or prevent the condition.

The trust does not receive any government funding and relies on donations from individuals, companies and charitable trusts to fund their work.