"I am getting active in the Virtual Memory Walk & Jog for my amazing mum Rhonda."

"Anyone who knows Mum, knows she has such a kind heart and has always loved being in the company of others. Mum loves the poem ‘Reason, Season, or Lifetime’ and the quote ‘People come into your life for a reason, a season or for a lifetime’. She believes everyone has a purpose in someone else’s life. Whether this is helping out a stranger for a moment, catching up with someone you haven’t seen in years, or purely a family member that is a part of your life, there is a purpose you are a part of someone’s life as you are in theirs.

Mum has always loved the simple things in life, a walk outside, watching the ocean for a few hours, gardening and spending time together. She also has always had a sweet tooth, where she loves all things chocolate (who doesn’t really?!). As Mum’s diagnosis got worse I decided to try and focus on the small things, like her love for chocolate. So, every Sunday, I would take Mum out for some chocolate cake and coffee. Nowadays we carry on this tradition but in her nursing home (prior to Coronavirus), she has a stash of Tim Tams (her favourite), chocolates and biscuits. If she runs out, she is quick to point it out!

I was 24 when Mum first told me about her diagnosis, I remember being in shock (she was only 58 years old), crying my eyes out and feeling so concerned about what the future would bring. But Mum was so calm about it and it helped make sense of the behaviour we had been seeing in the few years prior. At first the signs were small. She was leaving keys in the door when getting home from work, forgetting how to cook traditional meals that she knew like the back of her hand and forgetting my school bus timetables. At the time I just assumed she was a stressed or just having general forgetfulness.

Closer to the diagnosis, my brother and I flew Mum up to Queensland by herself for her birthday and to see her father. However, I got a panicked phone call from her when her father dropped her off at the airport to come home. She loved flying, and yet, was on the phone to me in tears as she couldn’t remember how to check-in, go through security, what gate to go to, or what to do by herself. At the time, she blamed this on the airport looking different to when she was there a few years prior. After stepping her through everything she was still panicking and couldn’t understand the directions I had given her. Being in a different state, there was nothing I could do, which was heartbreaking. Mum ended up getting help from a desk attendant. It was only a month or two later when Mum got diagnosed.

People come into your life for a reason, a season or for a lifetime.’

Once Mum was diagnosed it allowed us to get her the help needed. Dementia Australia has been great with Mum’s journey. She regularly attended Monday group sessions with other Tasmanian younger onset dementia patients. It helped her keep physically and socially active each week. The sessions helped her through the emotional aspects of her diagnosis and Dementia Australia was great at helping me with any concerns I had. If I ever turned up to Dementia Australia Tasmania, they would drop everything if there was an issue to take the time to listen and help assist with situations. I couldn’t imagine going on this journey without their support.

Mum has always been an incredible mother and role model too me. So I will continue to stand up for her and raise awareness of dementia. I am participating in the virtual Memory Walk & Jog as it is a great way to raise awareness and support each other going through similar journeys. I think Australians have always been passionate about fundraising and supporting one other. I have spread the word of my fundraising through posters at Mum’s aged care home and my work, as well as sharing images or videos of Mum on social media. It’s great to see the various ways people have supported me, by donating or just checking in to see how I am and how my loved ones are.

Even in such uncertain and challenging times, it has been amazing seeing the wider community still sticking together virtually, and stronger than ever. Memory Walk & Jog has always been a great way to show you’re not alone and it’s wonderful to see this is still happening even when so much is going on in the world. The Memory Walk & Jog is also a way of being physically active and reduces your risk of developing dementia. So it’s a win-win situation!"

- Rhianna