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Matthew Adams reveals why he wants to make explaining dementia to a child as easy as reading a story…

How do you explain dementia to a six-year-old? As a parent, how am I supposed to turn to my daughter and explain the reasons behind Granny’s strange and often frightening behaviour? The reasons Granny doesn’t laugh and joke like she used to? The reasons why granny doesn’t even recognise her own grandchild?

The Ally Bally Bee Project is on a mission to make such difficult conversations a little easier with a personalised children’s book about dementia. My name is Matthew Adams and I am the project Founder.

What inspired me?

Working in the charity sector for my entire career has introduced me to some tough subject matter – such as drug use, breast cancer and dementia. Discovering how families comprehend, accept and deal with such complex issues has always interested me. But it wasn’t until I became a father, while working for a dementia charity that I started to ask myself: how does a young child cope with a loved one’s dementia? How would I go about explaining Granny’s dementia to my six-year-old daughter?

Through my research I discovered some excellent children’s books about dementia but they were always about a little boy or a little girl. I wanted to create a book that allowed the customer to decide who featured as the main characters – be that their child, mother, grandad or whoever it may be!

What stage is the project at?

Over the past 12 months I have been working to take my idea from a dream to a reality (in between full-time employment and fatherhood!) As a digital marketing professional, I have been using my skills to promote the idea and generate interest and support online.

At present I am working with a talented children’s writer and illustrator to produce the story. Upon completion, I plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help raise much needed funds to build the website functionality that will allow users to personalise and order their book online.

The Ally Bally Bee Project now boasts more than 6,000 Twitter followers, a growing social media presence on other platforms too and more than 1,000 web visitors to the website each month.

How would it work?

The idea is that you would simply visit the website; select whether the book is for a little boy or girl; type in their name; do the same for the person living with dementia; and then, with a few clicks, have the book delivered straight to your door anywhere in the world (or download it as an e-book).

The end product will be a beautifully illustrated book about dementia in the family – where your child (or maybe niece or nephew) is the main character. A book where the person with dementia is your mother or your father. Perhaps ‘granny’ is called ‘nana’ – or maybe it’s ‘uncle Sam’ who has dementia?

Through our project we want to achieve three main objectives:

1. Ease the distress that children and families can experience when a loved one is living with dementia
2. Help to de-stigmatise dementia by educating younger generations about the illness
3. Raise vital funds for dementia organisations through sales of the book

Working on such a project, with little time, money or resource, is tough but the positive feedback I’ve received online motivates me to continue.