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Five years ago, just before Christmas, Rhianna’s mum Rhonda rang her in a panic. She was lost and confused at Melbourne Airport – and had forgotten how to board her flight.
Back in Hobart, Rhonda went to her GP, who ordered tests. Soon – at just 58-years-old – Rhonda had some shattering news for Rhianna and her brother Mitchell.
“When Mum told us that she had younger onset dementia, she was in her garden, the place she loved the most… When Mum told me, I cried uncontrollably. I knew it was terminal. I knew there was no cure.” says Rhianna, just 25 at the time.
Mitch, Rhonda, Rhianna and Michael, Christmas 2018.
As Christmases gone by, Rhonda would make a delicious roast with all the trimmings and would insist they all watch TV Christmas carols. “It was always about us spending time together.”
Two years ago, Rhonda moved into nursing care. Since then, Rhianna has tried to recreate some of that Christmas magic: packing a festive picnic and making a fun music playlist to enjoy together in the nursing home gardens.
Females in Australia are more likely to die of dementia than almost any other cause. We need to do more to support our women and their families – and one day find a cure.
When Rhianna has felt completely burnt out caring for Rhonda, “above and beyond” is how she describes the assistance from the Dementia Australia team. From counselling and group support, to respite care and recreational activities for Rhonda. Dementia Australia also helped them transition to nursing care. The team always made her feel “cared for, listened to and important”.
In heartbreaking news, Rhianna and Mitchell won’t get to celebrate another Christmas with their mum. A few weeks ago, Rhonda died peacefully with her children by her side.
“I spent her final nights with her, which I will forever cherish,” says Rhianna.
Tragically, a cure did not come in time for Rhonda, but there are so many ways we can bring relief and comfort to families like hers, so that they can make the most of every day left together.
This Christmas, will you give a gift so we can provide more carer support groups, counselling and online support for hurting families? You will be funding specialised services that help restore some of life’s magic.