Dementia is a scary thing. We’re still learning about it, and we still don’t know how to cure it.
Join the memory walk and jog here.
Our memories are the most important part of our identity. They quite literally make us who we are. The idea of losing them is enough to make anyone anxious, particularly if there was nothing you could do.
We aren’t trying to scare you here, but the fact is that the number of people diagnosed with dementia in Australia is growing. Sure, we can tell you the numbers. More than 350,000 people diagnosed right now, with that number rising by 50,000 in five years, and more than a million people caring for them. But do numbers really mean anything?
Instead, let us tell you about Celeste.
Celeste’s mother was a primary school teacher, passionate about her job and full of life and energy. In the last few years, her son and daughter had noticed she’d become a little forgetful. At first, it didn’t register any concern, but as time went on her daughter Celeste noticed that her mum just didn’t seem like the same person. She was exhausted, anxious, missing that spark. Celeste describes one of the moments she started to suspect there might be a problem:
“There was one instance where Mum couldn’t remember what had happened, and she made up a piece of information that I knew wasn’t right. I realised that she was filling in the blanks, that her brain was trying to fill in missing gaps.”
“I knew it wasn’t normal, that something was wrong.”
Years of doctor’s appointments without an answer, and then finally a diagnosis. At 57 years old, Celeste’s mother had Early Onset Alzheimer’s. For her family, there was relief and sorrow. Yes, their mother had her diagnosis and they knew that Alzheimer’s was the cause of her issue. But at the same time, there was so much devastation and fear about what her life would look like in the future.
“It was hard for me,” said her daughter Celeste. “I had to argue with my family before her diagnosis because I just knew that something was wrong but others were in denial. But once the doctor said that there was something wrong, it was easier for people to accept.”
Celeste’s family threw themselves into their mum’s care. She couldn’t work anymore, but they were able to enrol her in the Living with Dementia course from Alzheimer’s Australia.
“All of us went to the course,” said Celeste. “Me, my brother, mum and her partner. It was really good because, especially at the beginning when you don’t know anything, it is really scary. But just knowing the facts makes it more manageable.”
Following that Celeste’s mum was able to get on the right medication, following some tests. Even though she’ll never be the way she once was, for a short time, Celeste’s mother started to appear again. She was funny, relaxed, and able to have a conversation.
“I never thought we would have a proper conversation again. Not like we used to. But when she got on the medication, and she was lucky it worked for her because it isn’t able to be used in all cases, she did improve. She was able to sit down with me and have a conversation, and remember things. It was just amazing, I went home and bawled my eyes out.”
“We were so lucky to just get that little bit more time with her.”
The education, support, and everything that helped Celeste’s mother and her family to overcome a devastating diagnosis, that came from Alzheimer’s Australia. They’re working, raising funds and doing much-needed research to ensure that one day, Australians can live in a world without Alzheimer’s.
“We just didn’t know where to turn at first,” said Celeste. “But those courses, they really helped us to take control of the situation, reminded us to look after ourselves, and allowed us to talk to others. It was such a weird feeling, but everyone there just knew what it was like, and what I was going through. That was the biggest thing for me, the biggest help. It made me feel like we weren’t alone.”
“I just signed up to do the Memory Walk & Jog, and all my cousins are doing it this year too. For us, it’s the thing that makes us feel like there’s something we can do. Often, Alzheimer’s does feel like it’s totally out of your control, so it’s good to know there’s something we can do to help.”
Looking For Symptoms, And Reducing Your Risk
For your older relatives and friends, dementia is something you should keep an eye out for. Early symptoms of dementia include memory issues, behavioural changes like repetitive behaviour, unusual mood or problems completing normal activities.
If you are worried about someone, have a chat to them and encourage them to see their GP. A doctor will be able to get a better idea of what might be happening in that person’s life, and get the tests required to clear them, or investigate further.
When it comes to reducing your own dementia risk, there are definitely lifestyle changes you can make and habits you can pick up that are thought to be beneficial. Eating a healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis is always good for the body. The same goes for avoiding excessive drinking and smoking. However, for exercising the brain you might want to try board games, crossword puzzles, or learning a new skill, all of which is great.
Supporting A Dementia-Free Australia
So what about if you want to help Alzheimer’s Australia with their goal of supporting people with dementia for a brighter future? Well, luckily it’s as easy as taking a jog (or walk) down memory lane.
We’re talking about Memory Walk & Jog, a fundraising event run by Alzheimer’s Australia to help raise awareness and raise much-needed funds to combat dementia in Australia. Dementia is often a hidden condition, with families and carers struggling to take care of those living with the disease through its many challenges. That’s why it’s so important as a community for Australians to come together in support of these individuals and families.
Sign up to be a participant in Memory Walk & Jog at memorywalk.com.au. Take your kids and make a fun and active day of it. There are walks happening all over Australia, and it’s not too late to sign up even for people in busy areas like Sydney and other NSW locations. With something as simple as a walk or a jog, you could be making a massive difference to individuals and families all over Australia living the reality of dementia.
One day we hope to live in a world where dementia is a thing of the past… Don’t you?
This post is brought to you by the wonderful people at Alzheimer’s Australia