Gympie man shares the dark creep, fear and pain of dementia
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Three long years with dementia
DEMENTIA is the white ant of the human body. Outside everything looks fine, but the disease removes the essence of the individual. This week we said farewell to my much loved mother-in law, Del Weber, but we lost the essence of Del three years ago.
Del was a kind and loving woman, who was openly affectionate and burst with the joy of life; but within a matter of months she was reduced to an expressionless being with no recollection of the large family she had created.
Our deep pain was that we had to watch on as she endured that dark creep of confusion; observing the great fear in her eyes as her world collapsed, and having no ability to give her comfort as we became unknown to her. Sadly, it became much easier for the family when Del's memory finally faded and the confusion she endured lifted, the nurses became her comfort and the room her sanctuary.
Gympie has a large ageing population; one of the largest in the state, yet we have so few aged-care beds available.
Of those people aging in Gympie, a lot live on their own; again one of the largest statistics in the state. Our elderly will suffer unnecessarily if we do not work to rectify this shortfall. The afflicted and their families will have to find suitable care in distant locations, adding to the tremendous anxiety that takes hold as this disease progresses.
Aged care beds are not a future problem for our community; it is the situation now.
Our family was able to find an initial bed for Del on the Sunshine Coast, after what seemed like an endless administrative process.
We know of many families that have out of necessity placed their loved ones in nursing homes hundreds of kilometres from Gympie. Sadly, we also know that this forced move is sometimes the first trip these deep-rooted Gympie citizens have ever taken, and it can be heart wrenching to them when they can least adapt to new surroundings.
The families of dementia sufferers, having made the difficult decision to place their loved one in care for the first time all endure a degree of emotional strain, but when you add distance as a factor, the guilt of abandonment is compounded.
Our family was lucky; we were eventually able to transfer Del to Grevillea Gardens in Gympie. When I say lucky, the truth is a family sadly lost their loved one and Del was provided their room, now Del has provided that room to another.
Our family would like to acknowledge the care provided to Del by the hard-working staff at Grevillea Gardens; the compassion of the nurses at Gympie Hospital and the dignity bestowed by Paul and Martin at Gympie Funerals.
As a community we need to insist that all levels of government work harder to build more aged-care infrastructure in our town to support our elderly; we owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves.
Growing old is a given, not an option.