Finding light in dementia’s dark

September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Dementia is one of New Zealand’s most significant and growing healthcare challenges. Almost 70,000 New Zealanders have dementia and that number is expected to almost triple by 2050. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This month, Alzheimer’s Otago senior community educator Donna Watt shares withThe News readers about the disease.

My mother had Alzheimer’s and she lost both legs to vascular disease, so, yes, there were difficult times.

Mum could no longer engineer her own experience of the world, so it became the role of many to bring the world to her.

Local librarians provided the books — to Mum they seemed to magically appear.

She was still a ‘‘reader’’.

Mum was a musician, so we all worked to keep the music alive.

My sister and I took in instruments and we played and sang together.

We lamented wobbly three-part harmonies and lost chords, and laughed until we cried.

The activities co-ordinator found musicians to bring the music.

Mum was always parked at the front and loved to feel part of the ‘‘band’’.

The staff made a pinny to hold her precious things — a book, the Otago Daily Times, a cryptic crossword, her knitting needles, and often a sweet or two.

So many friends continued to visit her.

The man who grew up on a neighbouring farm — she loved his wit, and oh how it broke his heart when she no longer recognised him.

An old high school friend, leaving a trail of gifts. The dear man who brought the guitar, and was there to sing to her right at the end. There were too many others to mention.

I don’t deny that the dementia journey is hard.

However, presence, love and kindness from those around you makes a very big difference — that is what made our mother’s journey the best it could possibly be.

If you are finding it hard to stay in touch with a friend or family member who has dementia please get in touch. I’d love to help you to feel comfortable being a part of someone’s dementia story.

Contacts: [email protected], (027) 441 4077 or (03) 448 9056