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2004, in Perth, saw Judy disturbed by her inability to remember where items had been placed in our three-storey town-house.
Throughout the year, several doctors told her it was just a sign of old age in a person born in 1930. Judy had never been concerned about her mental health but the continued memory loss prompted consultations with a psychiatrist throughout 2005.
By 2006, Judy and I decided the psychiatrist wasn’t assisting with Judy’s needs. The physical demands of multiple flights of stairs to find personal items caused us to research ground-level homes, whilst also seeking advice from other doctors.
In October 2007, we moved into the Collier Park Retirement Village.
Early in 2008 the family medical centre closed, so a new doctor, in a “Family Practice” was appointed. At the same time Judy, an ex-nurse, discovered the Aged Care facility in Bentley Hospital. Judy enrolled for assessment in conjunction with our family doctor, and after the necessary scans, she was diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer’s. Patch medication was prescribed on trial and later confirmed as satisfactory.
It wasn’t until September 2009 that we first heard of Alzheimer’s Australia.
Judy was immediately registered with myself as her carer. Since that time the various group meetings, advice, choir participation and exercises have been beneficial for both of us. Judy and I decided to maintain a sense of humour throughout the challenges we would experience. Judy was never to be treated like a patient and she would participate as a partner to the level of her ability. We could both laugh when she left the bathroom in her “birthday suit” and opened the front door, thinking it was the bedroom.
What needs to change
Let’s look at those first five years and six months: Judy attended six doctors, a psychiatrist and two psychologists before being diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer’s.
A further 12 months passed before we learned of Alzheimer’s Australia and the many ways that wonderful organisation assisted patients and carers.
Herein lies a great need for all general practitioners and health workers to be made aware of dementia/Alzheimer’s, to allow for early intervention and also for them to learn about the services offered by the organisation.
Where they are now
Judy’s loss of spatial abilities is still being fought by a courageous lady who studies the bus time-tables she seeks to use. She travels, unescorted, to and from her destinations. She enjoys my cooking and shopping expertise but she has to be reminded to do the washing and drying of dishes…… and what does Bill say about his new role… “Hey! For Judy…. after 57 years of marriage, it’s pay-back time”.