By: Chloe Willetts
Otaihanga Domain is hosting a Memory Walk this weekend in support of the more than 60,000 people living with dementia in New Zealand.
Paraparaumu woman Emily Paterson, 30, will be among the collection of registered walkers at Sunday’s event, organised by Alzheimers Wellington.
Emily, whose mother Trish Braddock was diagnosed with dementia in 2011 aged 62 hopes the walk will increase awareness around the disease that is 30 percent more likely to affect woman than men.
Along with her brother and sister, her three nieces and nephew, Emily will remember her once bubbly mother, who passed away from the symptoms of dementia in November last year.
Having shifted back to New Zealand from Australia following her mother’s diagnosis, Emily watched as her caring and attentive mother progressively deteriorated.
“Before she was diagnosed, Mum started becoming forgetful and repeating herself a lot, and started putting things in funny places without knowing.
“She was getting very frustrated when she couldn’t remember things or get certain words out.
“Eventually, she had to leave her job as she couldn’t complete daily tasks there and couldn’t drive, so life changed a huge amount.”
In the early days, while Trish was still in her home, her children visited each night to make sure she had dinner sorted, and had to accept that in-home care needed to visit a few times a day to help her shower and dress.
Once Trish went into rest home care, her three children had to pack up her house.
“We visited our young mum at a rest home and it was very hard seeing the grandchildren so thrilled to see their grandma, but she didn’t have the energy anymore to take part in much.”
According to Alzheimers New Zealand, dementia is one of the country’s biggest health challenges, with more than 170,000 Kiwis estimated to be living with the disease by 2050.
Dementia, an umbrella term used to describe a group of conditions that affect how well the brain works, can’t be prevented, cured or slowed.
While dementia is different for each individual, the most common symptoms include changes in memory, thinking, behaviour, personality and emotion.
“Mum changed in her appearance a lot.
“She always dressed so nicely with everything matching and her hair and makeup done, which changed as she no longer had that motivation and energy to look like that anymore.
“Her moods also changed and she lost a lot of weight and went from eating lots of treats to not eating for days and days.
“She aged a lot in her last few years.”
The hardest thing for the siblings was not being recognised by their mother when they visited her at the rest home.
“She would walk right past not knowing who we were at all.
“My mum, who had brought me into this world, no longer had any idea who I was.”
According to Emily, the biggest misconception about dementia is that it only affects the elderly.
“It’s so important for people to try to notice the signs early and get that support and help, not only for the patient, but for the family.
“We spent the last week of her life sitting by her bed knowing that our mum, who was only 67, wasn’t going to be here soon because of such an awful illness.”
With Memory Walks taking place all across the country this month, between Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 24, this year is the first for Kapiti.
According to Alzheimers Wellington’s chief executive Anne Schumacher, the Memory Walk is a chance to raise awareness around dementia, as well as an opportunity for people to keep their brains healthy by taking a stroll in the fresh air.
“There’ll be memory puzzles for the whole family, some spot prizes, and the chance to donate to Alzheimers Wellington.”
All money received will remain in the Wellington region, from Kapiti to Upper Hutt, and go towards supporting local families affected by dementia.
“Hopefully, with our help, people with dementia and their families will remain supported and connected as part of their community for as long as possible.”
The Memory Walk takes place this Sunday, September 24 at the Otaihanga Domain from 1.30pm. To register visit memorywalk2017.gofundraise.co.nz/ or turn up on the day.
– For more information about dementia and its symptoms, or to make a donation, visit www.alzheimers.org.nz.
Source: Kapiti News