Try walking just a mile in Mick’s shoes

Long way to go: Try keeping up with Mick on his walk, which starts on May 31.

Dementia advocate Michael Simpson is about to set off on a massive walk from Kyabram to the steps of Victorian Parliament in a bid to raise awareness of dementia.

At the same time, the 66-year-old, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2018, will also be pushing for the need for regional support groups to help people cope, especially with their initial fears.

Mr Simpson says those first six to 12 months after sitting in your doctor’s office and receiving your diagnosis are probably the worst of your life.

“It simply knocks the guts out of you, it certainly did with me and with many others with whom I have spoken,” Mr Simpson said.

“You are battling to understand what is coming, you are trying to get your life back on some sort of track, and you are also faced with the reactions of those around you.

“And only people who have the condition, who know what you are feeling, what frightens you, can provide the guidance you will really need.”

Mr Simpson leaves Kyabram at 9am on Tuesday, May 31 and expects to be met on the steps of Parliament by his local MP and state Nationals leader Peter Walsh on June 8.

This will the campaigner’s third walk.

When he completed his first one people told him that was enough. He didn’t listen, and did Cobram to Kyabram and everyone told him that was it, no more.

“I know this one will be hard for me but it is so important more people become aware of the extent of this disease,” Mr Simpson said.

“It is no longer an old person’s affliction, it is being found in children, teenagers and all the way up to people like me.”

Mr Simpson suffers from Lewy body dementia, a disease characterised by abnormal deposits in the brain called Lewy bodies.

LBD affects chemicals in the brain, which in turn, can lead to problems with thinking, memory, movement, behaviour and mood.

LBD currently doesn’t have a cure.

Mr Simpson said that within a month of announcing his walk, he had seven phone calls from people telling him they had been diagnosed with dementia in the Goulburn Valley.

“That’s why you need someone to talk to; any diagnosis such as this is going to hit you hard, and it is going to affect all your nearest and dearest. And unless you are already walking in my shoes, you aren’t going to be able to help someone else through the same reaction,” he said.

“It is also important we get research to focus as much on why the age for dementia is coming down so fast — it is genetics in many cases but clearly, as humans, we are doing other things to ourselves to cause this change in the disease.

“Anyone who can help with the establishment of support groups, or simply come and give us a hand, or just walk a few kilometres with me, would be fantastic.”

As well as walking for awareness, Mr SImpson is raising funds to go towards support services, including taking part in an Umbrella Dementia Café in the Kyabram Community Centre on May 26.

Mr Simpson’s schedule for his walk to Parliament:

May 31: 8am farewell breakfast at Kyabram Memorial Park. Walk starts at 9am

June 1: Tatura to Murchison

June 2: Murchison to Nagambie

June 3: Nagambie to Seymour

June 4: Seymour to Broadford

June 5: Broadford to Wallan

June 6: Wallan to Kalkallo

June 7: Kalkallo to Fawkner

June 8: Fawkner to Parliament