Rachel Mikleus's Story

"Dad passed away in 2012 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s and that's the first year I did the Illawarra Memory Walk & Jog. The following year we formed the team “Jim’s Girls” and have attending every year since!”

Rachel’s Dad Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 60 years old. Her dad was a relatively fit, youthful, highly intelligent man with a fantastic sense of humour. After a 12-year battle with Alzheimer’s Jim sadly passed away in 2012. His daughter Rachel has been participating in Memory Walk & Jog ever since in honour of him and for other families just like hers, with the hope that someday we will find a cure. Since Rachel first began doing Memory Walk & Jog she has been participating with her team Jim’s Girls which includes her sister Vanessa, daughter Olivia, friend Sue and her nieces.

When Jim was first diagnosed, he was 60 years old and had only recently retired. He and his wife were looking forward to their retirement together. Unfortunately, not long after this they started to see changes in Jim.

"It's not just about short-term memory loss. It's forgetting basic things that you have always done, like how to turn on a light switch or use a TV remote.”

Rachel and her family also started to see changes in his behaviour, mood and mobility.

For Rachel and her family, the support she received from Dementia Australia was critical in helping them understand the changes they were seeing in Jim and how they could best help him. It also offered Jim’s wife, who was his carer some much needed respite.

In August 2006, Jim got lost in the bush without food and water and was missing for 3 days, sparking a wide scale search for him. Jim was eventually reunited with his family was after being found by a neighbour several kilometres up a steep hill with his companion dog Josh. The first thing Jim said to his wife and daughters was “All my girls are here”. For Rachel and her worried family these were the longest three days of her life. However, the experience helped them all to realise just how serious Jim’s condition was.

The support Rachel and her family received from Dementia Australia has inspired her to attend Memory Walk & Jog so they can keep raising awareness and much needed funds so families just like hers can get access to vital support services and hopefully one day find a cure.