Leading dementia campaigner Tommy Whitelaw visited Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen recently to give a moving presentation about caring for loved ones with the condition.
Mr Whitelaw spent 25 years in the music industry as a tour manager for Scottish bands such as Texas and heading up global merchandising operations for the likes of Kylie and U2.
He put his successful career on hold and returned to Glasgow after his mother Joan was diagnosed with vascular dementia, and became her full-time carer for five years until she died in September 2012.
Since then Mr Whitelaw has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of dementia and encourage the public to share their experiences with the illness.
His ‘Tommy on Tour’ campaign, which began in Aberdeen in June 2011, saw him travel Scotland collecting life story letters from carers, who have cared for or are caring for a loved one with dementia, which he handed over to the Scottish Government in November of that year.
He followed this up in 2012 by starting to work at ‘Dementia Carer Voices’, a project based at Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland that promotes empowerment of carers.
He said: “My motivation came from the love I had for my mum, but I know how tough it is to live with dementia and how many struggles it can bring. I feel passionately that no one should have to face these issues alone and I am determined to raise awareness of dementia and its impact on the families it touches.”
Tommy and the team now work closely with the Scottish Government on policy and strategy, but he still spends much of his time touring the country, having delivered almost 500 talks to date.
Alison McLennan, from RGU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, helped bring Mr Whitelaw back to the university.
She said: “We were very proud to welcome Tommy to RGU, so students and staff could hear his story and share their experiences. Tommy is an inspirational speaker and it was great for the students to hear from someone who has been in his position, which will stand them in good stead.”