Narelle's Story

Canberra Memory Walk & Jog

Narelle took part in the Canberra Memory Walk & Jog for the first time on Sunday, 23 February 2020. You can read her full story below, or register for a MY Memory Walk & Jog!

"This will be my first ever Memory Walk & Jog and I will be walking with my husband and two sons for my gorgeous mum, Jeanette. I have found Dementia Australia to be a great source of information for me to further understand the changes Mum is going through. I have attended a number of events and seminars in Canberra as well as reading others stories, this has been so useful particularly in the early stages where things felt scary, confusing and lonely. 

I have been aware of the Memory Walk & Jog in Canberra for a little while now and wanted to find a way I could actively contribute to those going through similar journeys to mine. The fact Memory Walk & Jog also raises vital funds to support people with dementia, their families and carers made it even better.

I first noticed something was wrong with Mum as she was showing clear signs of forgetfulness and repeating questions. At first Mum just put it down to ‘everyone forgets things as they get older’ but it felt like there might be more to it and after doing some research I felt this may be dementia and we would need to get her diagnosed. At first it was frustrating and upsetting as Mum and the family didn’t accept the diagnosis. After a few years we managed to convince her to get diagnosed.

Mum has always been an incredibly positive, encouraging, amazing and creative woman! As a child, I remember every morning mum would get up, go around the house throwing open the curtains and say something funny like 'today is the first day of the rest of your life' or 'Carpe Diem – seize the day!'. Much to my teenage sons' embarrassment, I now have a Carpe Diem bumper sticker on my car, just to remind me. It has been tough seeing Mum slowly become a shadow of the personality she once was, but despite her dementia she has still remained easy going, happy and excels at living in the moment!

Mum and I used to do a lot of things together, and I miss that a lot. We would go to galleries and cafes regularly. I do try to still do this with her as much as I can. Mum never missed baking me a cake for my birthday each year, even into my late twenties! But unfortunately now she is unable to cook, and has trouble remembering dates and milestones, even though she religiously notes things in her diary. Mum's love for cooking, family time and creativeness also meant for her Christmas was a big tradition we shared. Together we would plan a menu, coordinate the tree decorating, coordinating the gifts and brave a very early and busy big shop at the markets.

The hardest part of this journey with Mum has been accepting that she is not the same person as she used to be. Mum and I have always been incredibly close, we used to talk on the phone several times a week. In the early stages of her diagnosis she would phone me several times a day (because she had forgotten we’d already spoken), but now she forgets to phone altogether.

It has also been hard watching the effect this has had on my dad. However, he has really stepped up as mum has gotten worse. When mum could no longer cook, Dad took this up for her - previously this was Mum's love and passion so she always wanted to cook herself! Dad has assumed this role for her and I remember how proud he was when he told me that he’d prepared a casserole from scratch and made spare to put in the freezer.

Mum's journey with dementia has been full of ups and downs, one thing it has helped me improve exponentially is my patience. It has been a hard skill to learn, but I have become very good at being patient with Mum. I just repeat myself, answer her questions, divert or change the subject or activity, and try not to get too bogged down in the detail. This has taken practice, as my immediate reaction is to correct. It’s kind of like throwing all rules and preconceptions away and as my mum says 'just live in that very moment – Carpe Diem!'."

- Narelle