For sisters Lisa Williams and Emma Pitcher, the recent Alzheimer’s Australia Memory Walk & Jog event at Illawarra was a real family affair. Joined by their dad, brother, extended family and a large group of friends, they participated in honour of their mother Barbara, who was diagnosed with younger onset dementia two years ago, aged just 60.
“Mum was diagnosed in May 2015, although we had been noticing the subtle signs for two or three years before that. She was forgetting how to do basic tasks, becoming confused and having difficulties with language,” Lisa said.
The sisters, who are both nurses, took Barbara to see the family GP, who brushed off their concerns. They persisted and, after three more appointments and still no answers, they convinced their mother to see another doctor and get a second opinion.
The next year was taken up by an array of tests and assessments, along with referrals to a geriatrician and neurologist, and a diagnosis of dementia was eventually given.
“We were devastated and relieved all at the same time,” Emma said.
“The symptoms now had a name, but no cure.”
The family proceeded to become involved with the Alzheimer’s Australia Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker Program, which opened up numerous avenues for support.
“Following diagnosis, mum was already living with me and my family while dad worked interstate. However, her safety and wellbeing around the home became an issue. It started with little things like leaving hot plates, the iron or the grill switched on, forgetting to turn off taps and leaving doors unlocked,” explained Emma.
Barbara has now moved into full time residential care, with the family attempting to normalise the experience as much as possible by continuing to nurture the social relationships that Barbara still has.
“We wanted to take part in the Memory Walk & Jog to raise awareness of dementia and funds to help support the work of Alzheimer’s Australia, which has been a fantastic support for us,’’ Lisa said.
If you haven’t made it along to a Memory Walk & Jog so far in 2017, there’s still plenty of time to do so, with upcoming events scheduled for:
You don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to enjoy a Memory Walk & Jog – it has something for everyone. You can run, walk, skip or even dress up and dance your way through the day!
All funds raised will be used to support the provision of local dementia services in the communities where each event takes place.
Those who can’t make any of the events listed are encouraged to bring the Memory Walk & Jog to their own communities by hosting a DIY event. Alzheimer’s Australia will provide all the materials and support necessary to help create a successful and fun event.
Alternatively, you can create your own personal challenge by signing up to complete a MY event. Walk, jog or run as far as wish … just set your target and go for it!
For more information or to register, visit memorywalk.com.au