Leading the UK in Dementia Advocacy

Norman McNamara

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard the name Norman McNamara, but at the time I’m sure I couldn’t have imagined the magnitude of his work.  Norrms, as his friends call him, was diagnosed with early onset dementia at age 50. In the five years since his diagnosis, he has done more to educate the world about the disease than most of us can imagine doing in a lifetime.

It was Norrms’ wife, Elaine, a caregiver for 35 years, who began to notice changes in him. Little things like putting a cup of hot tea in the refrigerator and forgetting a visit with his mother eventually grew into failing to remember how to button his shirt and tie his shoes.

Second Chance

His decline was swift until a physician suggested trying a drug called Ebixa (Memantine) in an attempt to temporarily suppress some of his symptoms. Norrms is extremely careful to stress that this is not a cure,and the drug is not effective for everyone, but in his case, the results were very encouraging.

How long it will last is anyone’s guess, but for the moment it has provided a new lease on life. Having learned firsthand just how little support is available for dementia patients, particularly those with early onset, Norrms sprung into action — quickly making a significant impact.

Dementia Awareness Day: Just the Beginning

Little did he know how his advocacy efforts would explode across the UK. “Did I think it would get so big? Certainly not, but I sure am happy that it did,” he said.

In addition to three face-to-face meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron, his accomplishments include organizing the first ever Dementia Awareness Day (now an annual event), founding the Torbay Dementia Action Alliance, speaking to police and other first responders about their role in the dementia crisis, and authoring four books.

Norman McNamara with David Cameron

He is also a frequent speaker and blogger on the topic and the inspiration behind the Purple Angel, which is quickly becoming the international symbol for dementia awareness. This is the same insignia being used by Gary LeBlanc and his Alzheimer’s/Dementia Hospital Wristband Project.

Paint the Town Purple

Several weeks ago, Norrms and a passionate group of volunteers hit the streets in the town of Paignton.  On that single summer day, they visited 202 businesses, asking them to commit to becoming dementia aware. Every single establishment said yes. According to the TDAA website, this means over 600 businesses in and around the borough of Torbay are now “dementia aware.”

With so many shop owners and their employees on board, it’s just that many more advocates to help spread the word. Part of the impetus for this effort was a post-diagnosis encounter Norrms had with a store clerk. He had become a bit flustered while paying for his purchase and the clerk’s response was less than ideal. Now, with their newfound awareness, customer facing staff members will be more apt to recognize and better serve those who suffer from dementia.

The Incredible Power of One

Once you get to know this dementia awareness champion, it’s obvious that his astoundingly positive attitude is contagious. He credits the support of family and friends for helping him to maintain his great outlook, “I am lucky to come from a very close knit family and they wouldn’t let me sit on my rear and do nothing.”

He reminds us that perhaps dementia is the ultimate lesson in living in the moment. When asked to describe day-to-day life with dementia, Norrms said, “I take each day as a new day, dementia is so unpredictable that every day is different, I never worry about tomorrow as it will always become today.”

Norrms is also quick to remind friends and fans that if he can make such a difference while battling dementia, anybody can do it! Delivering hope, inspiration, and joy to the world on a daily basis, Norman McNamara epitomizes the power of one!

Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Jane Moore

    Norm is an absolute inspiration!

    • Ann Napoletan

      I couldn’t agree more, Jane!!!!

  • Jane Moore

    Hi Ann! Please visit http://www.purpleangel.org.uk and help yourself to a download of our purple angel emblem which is awarded for those who are dementia aware!

    • Ann Napoletan

      Will do, Jane – perfect for displaying on my blog. I recently ordered 2
      purple angel pins, and they always generate questions which is great!
      I’m so blown away by what Norm is doing. Thank you for all YOU do as
      well! You’re both such amazing people! xo

  • Heather Pearson

    Norm Mac is simply phenomenal…

  • Heather Miller

    I ordered window stickers and Posters, but I don’t know what a business has to “do” to be able to display those and say they are Dementia Aware? I live in Oklahoma, USA. There is little to NO awareness here. I am determined to make a difference in my community and Norms is my inspiration! I’m going to do it all for my Mom, suffereing for 8 years, finally diagnosed with FTD in June of this year.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Heather, the idea is that the businesses ask their employees to read over the poster which will help to educate them about dementia and how to best serve customers they suspect may have cognitive impairment. Once they have done that, the business can proudly display the window sticker indicating they are a dementia friendly business. I hope this helps.

  • David Smith

    May God bless YOU for all you do to help and encourage others, Norm, and for widening dementia awareness to many around the globe! You are in our prayers as you face your battle each and every day, one day at a time with boldness and renewed HOPE!

  • John Belchamber

    Writing from Brisbane, Australia I congratulate Norm’s. He is dong great work which is spreading awareness of Dementia globally.

  • Guest

    Norms, you are an exceptionally incredibly man! Despite your diagnosis, you are making a tremendous difference with your awareness program! God bless you and your family always!

  • Paula Coley

    Norms, you are an exceptionally incredible man! Despite your diagnosis, your stength is amzing and you are making a tremendous difference with your awareness program! God bless you and your family always!

  • Jackie33

    Great story, good work Norms:)

  • Renee Noble

    U have helped me realize its a day to day struggle for my mom, i am her caregiver, ur story is inspirational to me. RL USA

  • A Nonny Mouse

    Norman McNamara is not the man he pretends to be. For a start, he doesn’t come from a very close knit family. He comes from a seriously fractured family, and you only need to read many of his repeated writings to realise that. If he can’t be honest about his origins, what else is he not being honest about? He displays not one single symptom of dementia, so those pills that he takes must work miracles and should be prescribed to everyone with dementia. He is an advocate for himself, hogging the limelight wherever he goes, and is so full of self-promotion that he will fall over himself one day.

    • julie

      Mr or Miss Anonymous I find your Comments offensive. How can he be What you say if, he doesn’t financially gain from this??????

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