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Earlier this year, Dementia Advocate Kevyn Morris shared his experiences of living with dementia at the Murrumbidgee Local Health District Dementia Forum. Below is an overview of his presentation.
“Good morning. Take a look to the left of you. Do you know the person there? Are you sure? This is an everyday occurrence for a lot of us.
My name is Kevyn Morris. I am married to my lovely wife Leanne and live in Wodonga. We have seven children together, and with their partners and grandchildren our family numbers 25.
I’ve had many occupations over the years, but I finished my working life as an artist and Australian timber furniture maker.
My troubles began simply enough. Leanne or the kids would tell me things and I would swear black and blue they hadn’t, and that they were just pulling the wool on me! It all culminated when I couldn’t remember how to use a thickener planer, or put a saw blade on a circular saw, which was something I’d been doing for decades! Leanne took me to our doctor, before an interview with the Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service (CDAMS) gave me an initial diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment in 2015.
I can tell you there is nothing mild about any cognitive impairment! After diagnosis we weren’t told anything, or given any advice about what to expect or what could be done, other than to come back in about 12 months. We searched the internet for information, or a group, or someone we could talk to. That’s when we found Dementia Australia and made the call.
The person on the phone asked me if I had thought of becoming a Dementia Advocate, and suggested it would give me an opportunity to meet others in similar circumstances, and to help me understand more about what was happening to me. One of the next calls I received was from Maree McCabe, CEO of Dementia Australia. She told me about the organisation and how it could benefit me. I liked what I heard.
Since 2015 we’ve had to make changes to the way we do things and how we live. It became apparent that I could no longer work with timber as I had started to forget some of the techniques. I had worked most of my life, and now not only was I not working, but I also had no idea how I was going to contribute. It was the feeling of being useless that I couldn’t handle.
Leanne gave me a camera and suggested I take photos to help me remember things. Neither of us had any idea how much this would not only change my life, but more importantly the direction it would take me in.
Anyone who has a cognitive impairment knows it is life-changing, but it is not only the person with the condition that is affected. Family, friends, and in fact anyone you have contact with is impacted by it. Changes can range from being minor to simply devastating and it can be hard for those around us to understand what is happening or what to do. In response to the question about what to do, I only have one answer … have patience, because the person you know, the person you love, is still inside. They just may have trouble in showing you.
Around two years ago, I had been talking to members of Dementia Australia’s Consumer Engagement team who asked if I was interested in joining the Dementia Advisory Committee. Once they explained more about the committee and what we could achieve, I agreed.
Since joining the committee, I have been involved in research projects with several major universities, spoken to politicians and department heads at Parliament House in Canberra. I was also named as co-researcher in a project designed by Monash University.”