“Dad has always been the one to lift me up when I need it, and now our roles are reversed and I’m helping him. It’s so hard to see Dad change, but I’m grateful for every day we get together.” Prue, devoted daughter and carer to Tim.
Prolonged stress and uncertainty are new to many – but not to families coping with dementia.
Tim was a committed family man. He was also busy running a business, loved to cook his family dinner every night and plan exciting holidays. He felt bulletproof.
But at 51, Tim began making unusual mistakes. He’d put food away in crockery draws and came home with dings in the car. He’d forget to call work clients back and how to do simple math.
Then, Tim was quickly let go from two jobs in a row, running automotive spare parts businesses. He launched his own company – but Tim’s wife Laura noticed he was very confused and overwhelmed: in the end, she was doing most of the work.
Laura went to their GP with her concerns and in the months ahead, Tim underwent test after test. One year after his symptoms began, Tim was diagnosed with younger onset dementia.
“Dad is such a strong, positive person so when mum told me he had dementia, I thought he’d get through it,” says his daughter Prue, 26.
“It took time to accept. It changed all of our lives forever.”
Loss of memory and coordination means Tim can no longer drive, read, write, or dress himself. He is easily flustered, often confused and has severe anxiety. Unable to work, Tim was forced to sell his business. His family could no longer pay the mortgage, and lost their home.
Prue, aged 26, then became Tim’s carer, so her mum could run her dance studio so their family could stay afloat. Then, the COVID-19 crisis began, and Laura’s business shut down. It was almost too much to bear.
Despite his positive attitude, COVID-19 has been a nightmare for Tim.
Calming routines have been severely disrupted. Exercise therapy has been restricted. Nightly news about COVID-19 overwhelms Tim. Social distancing and handwashing are impossible to remember.
Recently, Tim’s health seriously deteriorated.
“One day, Dad wanted to show me the man in the mirror who was watching him,” Prue recalls.
“I realised he was talking about his reflection – he couldn’t recognise his own face anymore. I broke down crying and rang Mum. I can’t imagine how awful this must feel for Dad.”
“Absolutely amazing” is how Prue described the day her family discovered Dementia Australia existed, and that help was just a phone call away on the National Dementia Helpline.
Soon after, Tim was assigned a case worker, who could link him with a range of support services in his community. Counselling has helped with the mixture of emotions Tim and Laura are experiencing and education has helped Tim’s family understand his illness and decline.
“Not only has our family gained tools to help deal with our situation, Dad has also made lifelong friends through Dementia Australia,” Prue says.
We know we are not alone: it’s an incredible feeling.”
In a year like this, I know people like Tim, his wife Laura and their daughter Prue are just so grateful for incredible supporters like you – you help us lift them up in the most anxious and uncertain times.