Scottish gran with dementia writes grandkids letters before she forgets them

A grandmother has left each of her grandchildren a special gift and a letter for when they turn 21 - before dementia stops her remembering who they are.

Olive and Ronnie Munro with their grandchildren left to right Luka Munro, 7, Isla Munro, 4, Liam Colman, 8, Colin Swan, 12, Andrew Swan, 17, and Connor Colman 8. Picture: SWNS

Olive Munro was diagnosed with vascular dementia three years ago and has already bought special antique keys for each of her six grandchildren when they turn 21.

The 67-year-old from Ardtalnaig, Perth and Kinross, says she knows there will come a time when she won’t recognise their faces or know who they are.

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The considerate grandmother is also writing them each a letter before her memory deteriorates.

Olive Munro, 67, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia around three years ago, walked the famous Comino de Santiago pilgrimage route through France and northern Spain with her husband, Ronnie, for Alzheimers Research UK. Picture: SWNS

Although she was diagnosed with the “horrible” illness, Olive says she still remains determined to make the most of her life while she’s able.

She said: “I was born in Scotland and in my family it was always a tradition that once you turned 21 you would receive a key - it’s an old-fashioned thing.

“I did the same thing for my kids.

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Olive Munro's grandchildren left to right Isla Munro, 4, Luka Munro, 7, Colin Swan, 12, Liam Colman, 8, Andrew Swan, 17, and Connor Colman 8. Picture: SWNS

“So because of my personal experience I felt it was a good idea to do the same for my grandkids.

“But because I have vascular dementia I’ve had to prepare it early. I went to an antic store in Edinburgh to get the keys for them.

“And I’m going to write letters to all of them too.

“I really hope they will appreciate this special tradition and that they will also do it with their own children someday.”

Olive has been married to Ronnie, 74, for 41 years and she still keeps a close bond with her three children - Douglas, 46, Alene, 48, and Christopher, 43.

Her six grandchildren are Andrew, 17, Colin, 12, twins Liam and Connor, eight, Luka, seven, and Isla, four.

When she was first diagnosed with the illness, Olive said she felt her life had suddenly stopped.

She said: “When I first found out I was fed up and depressed, I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone.

“I eventually sucked it all up and I thought if I decide to give up then I would have already been defeated.

“You just never know which part of your brain will go first but I will enjoy today and worry about tomorrow later.”

When Olive realised she was no longer good at mental arithmetic and struggled to remember words, she took it upon herself to find out if she had dementia - as there is a family history of the condition on the female side.

That was in 2012 when she was 61 and had returned to Scotland to retire after 40 years in Canada.

The gran-of-six was referred for tests and, aged 63, was told she had a 10 per cent memory loss at that stage.

In 2015, following further tests, she was officially diagnosed with vascular dementia.

Recently, Olive, who previously managed a care home, completed a mammoth trek to raise money for pioneering research.

On May 1 Olive started walking the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route through France and northern Spain with her husband, Ronnie, for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Walking a minimum of 10km each day, the couple took two months to complete the 780km route - a month quicker than planned.

She said: “I was looking for ideas for something we could do to raise money.

“There are some things I can’t do, but I watched the film The Way, starring Martin Sheen, where they trek the Comino de Santiago route, and I thought ‘I can walk, let’s go for that’.

“The trek was very tough, but we got stronger and stronger each day.

“The hardest point was early on when we both got sick.

“Because we were focused on walking, we didn’t realise how ill we were. We had to stop and rest for three days.”

Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia and occurs when blood flow to the brain becomes reduced.

It’s estimated to affect about 150,000 people in the UK and is rare in people under 65.

Readers who seek further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit ENDS