Alzheimer’s Society has paid tribute to bestselling author Terry Pratchett who died yesterday following a battle with the disease.
Pratchett was a long-term advocate of the charity and featured in its Dementia Friends television advert, first broadcast in May 2014.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said Pratchett had “fundamentally changed the way dementia is seen and understood”.
“His vehement determination to reduce the stigma of dementia meant he helped drag it out of the shadows – kicking and screaming at times,” said Hughes.
“He has made a remarkable contribution to dementia since his diagnosis. Shouting from the rooftops about the absurdity of how little funding dementia research receives, and fighting for good-quality dementia care, he was and will remain the truest of champions for people with the condition.”
Hughes said Pratchett had supported the Alzheimer’s Society “many times” both “publicly and privately”.
“I was struck by his passion, resilience and courage to fight and kill the demon of dementia,” he said. “When thanked for his work, he’d simply smile and shake his head modestly, insisting it was nothing. Never dwelling on his own dementia, he used his voice to shout out for others when they could not.”
Pratchett was diagnosed with early-onset dementia in 2007. In July 2014 he was forced to cancel a speaking engagement, announcing that “the embuggerance is finally catching up with me”.
Pratchett was a keen charity supporter. He was patron of Alzheimer’s Research UK, a trustee for the Orangutan Foundation UK – an organisation dedicated to the conservation of the species – and actively involved with a Bath-based dementia charity, the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (Rice).
A fundraising page set up for Rice in the wake of Pratchett’s death has raised £26,000 in less than 24 hours.
Fundraising administrator Rhian Townsend said the charity was “overwhelmed” by the donations.
“We didn’t expect it at all and it was a surprise when we found out about the JustGiving page,” she told Bath Chronicle.
“We worked with Sir Terry Pratchett soon after his diagnosis of posterior cortical atrophy, an uncommon form of Alzheimer’s disease, and he opened the centre at the Royal United Hospital in 2008.”
This afternoon, Alzheimer’s Research UK said the loss of its patron would have a “profound effect” on “both literature and the 850,000 people who live with dementia”.
Hilary Evans, director of Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “Sir Terry’s uniquely witty and affecting announcement of his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s at our 2008 conference will be seen as a watershed moment for all people living with dementia.
“It engendered huge public awareness of Alzheimer’s and issued a call to arms for society to talk about dementia and take steps towards defeating it.”
Pratchett’s legacy to dementia research was “huge both financially and as an enormous motivation to our supporters and scientists”, she said.
“When he announced the inaugural Terry Pratchett research fellowship in 2010, he insisted on a single word to be engraved on the trophy: “strive”. Our scientists continue to act upon this powerful call, and push forwards with the research that will defeat the condition that took Sir Terry from us. We will miss him.”
Pratchett died at home surrounded by his family and much-loved cat. He was 66 years old.