World Alzheimer’s Day

It’s World Alzheimer’s Day. A day to be aware
of, rather than to celebrate. So, after a great morning teaching brain fitness
to a wonderful group of people I headed off to Government House in Perth to
attend a joint presentation put on by the McCusker Foundation and Alzheimer’s
Australia WA.

There were a number of speakers including Prof Ralph Martins who gave a fascinating update on where we are up to with
lifestyle factors assisting in the prevention of dementia.

But the most poignant of the speeches came
from Glenda and Bronte who spoke about their experience of living with dementia.
Glenda has a rare form of dementia – posterior cortical atrophy, which means
her ability to interpret what she sees is greatly impaired.

She also falls into the younger onset group,
being younger than 65. Many of those with young onset dementia are in their
thirties, forties and fifties. One of the main gripes Glenda and her husband
had was about the medical profession, who are not very good at suspecting
dementia being a possible diagnosis in someone younger. In fact they spoke quite harshly about the apparent lack of knowledge or education held by GPs in this area. I would probably suggest, it’s probably not always just the GPs who are not up to speed and that some specialists would also fall short.

 

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Glenda is poised, elegant and speaks with
honesty and a fair degree of self -depreciation and humour about her condition.
She refers to her husband as “her back up brain” and clearly the close
bond between the pair is very evident: her husband softly prompting her when
she got stuck for a word or was unsure of the next point she wanted to get
across.

A former headmistress of a prestigious Perth
school she is no longer able to read, can no longer distinguish colours and has
difficulty recognising glass. Yet her life is clearly full and despite
expressing her fear about what may lie ahead, you couldn’t but help admire her
feistiness, intelligence and warmth.

She and her husband have recently returned
from Canberra where she been involved in the setting up of a new group, run
entirely by people with younger onset dementia to address some of the many
challenges they face and to work towards making our society a more dementia
friendly place.

In a world where we will increasingly come to
be either touched by dementia ourselves or know of someone else who has been,
listening to Glenda made me think about just how much we take for granted, and how
more we can do and must do, to make life that little bit easier for someone in the
community who is living with dementia.

 

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