Making the most of time

Bryan Gard began to have difficulty “keeping up” at work two years ago.

This was in the context of an increasing workload and decreasing workforce. Eight years earlier, when he had started this position, it had been paper and forms but now it was all done with technology. 

Conny and Bryan GardBryan and his wife Conny had only just returned from a long holiday overseas. Bryan asked for extra training, but instead was put off work on full pay. 

After some months had passed with him still at home he became more upset and lost some of his self-confidence. Eventually he returned to work but was so stressed that only weeks after returning, he resigned, for his own wellbeing.

Raising four boys, who are now young adults, Bryan had been a dedicated “house-husband” 20 years earlier with Conny working full-time as a nurse. 

This time something had changed when home tasks remained uncompleted. 

“The dinner wasn’t cooked, the shopping and washing wasn’t done – he’d just forgotten to do them,” Conny said. 

Medical practitioners thought it might be depression.

Ten months ago he was having difficulty with words and numbers, spelling and finding words, handling money had become a problem. He was sent to a geriatrician. A mini-mental exam and MRI backed-up a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, Bryan was only 64.

“It was pretty upsetting, we sobbed each night for two weeks, and then decided we were wasting time and just had to get on with things as best we could,” Conny said.

“We try to do special things together and with each of our sons and their families, to create really good memories.” 

Recently Bryan and Conny took a trip to Tasmania to visit Bryan’s three brothers, which they said was very special.

Since Bryan’s diagnosis Conny has left her job and helps to support Bryan at home, this also gives them the opportunity to enjoy valuable time together.

“Time is something we’re eventually going to run out of,” Conny said.

There are things the Gard’s do to help Bryan keep on track at home including a whiteboard, a calendar of appointments, diary full of schedules and a clock with the day, date and time displayed.

“We’re still in the early stages, but with some idea of what’s ahead of us,” Conny said.

Bryan keeps busy one day a week attending the Greening Australia and Dementia Australia ACT gardening project and another day a week doing woodworking, finishing and decorating wooden toys with the Dementia Australia ACT’s Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker Program.

The Canberra couple recently appeared in a Channel Nine news segment on a research project Melbourne researchers from the Florey Institute are looking into involving Alzheimer’s disease and iron build-up in the brain.

Bryan and Conny Gard

“With the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease in the community going up and up and it can effect anybody, research is so important to find out how to prevent it, what’s causing it and how we can cure it – if we can, but it’s a big ask,” Conny said.

“Even if we can slow it down, I feel it’s heading that way. 

“But we’re still here and we’re doing all the things that we can do.”  

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