WHEN her once fiercely independent mum was suffering through the final stages of Alzheimer’s, Valerie Muncer would sing to her.

“She did not remember much by that point but she always calmed down and smiled when I sang,” Valerie says.

“Her favourites were When I leave the World Behind and On Mother Kelly's Doorstep.”

Seeing her once independent and outgoing mum pass away left Valerie feeling helpless.

Valerie, 70, says: “I didn’t know anything about Alzheimer’s until it affected my life when mum fell ill.

“Now I know how it affects families and that it is not only old people who are affected, people of all ages can get the disease.”

Nellie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her late eighties and died from the illness when she was 95.

Since Nellie passed away six years ago, Valerie has worked hard to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

She has organised several events, most recently a dance at the Royal Naval Association clubhouse, in Prittlewell where 150 people attended raising £620 for the charity.

Valerie says: “Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease and people lose their personalities. You watched them deteriorate and suffer until the end and it is very painful to watch.”

Initially Valerie did not pick up on the signs of her mum’s illness.

She says: “I should have seen the signs but I didn’t. She would say things that were out of character and I wouldn’t think anything of it.

“We all went on holiday together to Cornwall one year she was very aggressive and kept shouting at me. At the time I thought she was in a bad mood but I see now it was a symptoms of the condition.”

In her early life Nellie had to grow up fast and be independent.

Valerie, who lives in Leigh, says: “Nellie was always a proud and stubborn lady - I have certainly have that trait myself!

“My dad Lesley Francis Toole was in the Second World War and he came back in 1945 and the doctors diagnosed lung cancer and later passed away. She then re-married Edward George Green and they had another daughter and he later passed away from a brain haemorrhage.

“She always worked hard and was a talented seamstress and knitter. She was always very resilient and just got on with things and brought us up on her own.”

Through Nellie’s illness Valerie witnessed a side to mother she had not seen before.

“In one way the Alzheimer’s did mean she lost all her inhibitions and let her guard down. She had always been very private and some things she never discussed.

“Once, when I visited her in the home, she told me a story about how much she loved dancing. She said they used to dance in the parlour in her home in the East End and she wanted lessons but they couldn’t afford to back then. It took me by surprise because I hadn’t heard about it before.

“Later she went ball room dancing later with her husband Edward and loved going to dance clubs. Everyone always mentioned that she was always beautifully turned out.”

Seeing her mum suffer took its toll on Valerie and she felt powerless to do anything.

However, being able to raise funds for a charity she believes in has been a real comfort.

“Towards the end she was shallow breathing, she could not swallow or take in any liquid at all. It was so hard to see her dying this way. No one should go through this.

“It has brought me a certain amount of closure to be able to feel I am doing my bit in some small way by raising money.”

Valerie, who is married to Norman and has three children and nine grandchildren, now gets the family involved in fundraising.

She says: “Now all the children want to help me to raise money for the charity and in aid of their great grandmother and I have been so touched by the way my family, friends and the local community have all rallied round to help with my fundraising over the years.”

For more information visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org for details.