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Dementia Wellington Appeal December 2021

This Christmas help support families through the 'ups and downs' of living with dementia

Covid-19 has kept us all apart for too long. This Christmas I am sure, like me, you are looking forward to catching up with your family and friends. That said, not every Christmas goes off smoothly. Christmas is a real opportunity for difficult conversations to come to the surface. That can be hard enough at the best of times, but for families living with dementia the holiday season can be especially tricky. 

That is why, today, I have an urgent request for your help. A donation from people like you, can help Dementia Advisors support families working through the ‘ups and downs’ of life after a diagnosis. Your donation is vital to their ongoing work.

 

In Aotearoa, there are 70,000 people recognised with dementia, and the number is expected to rise to 170,000 in the next 30 years! It’s staggering to think that’s nearly the population of Wellington.

I also wanted to bring you up to date on how Brian and Jane’s family are doing. You may remember we met Jane and Brian during our Winter Appeal. Some ‘missing’ jewellery meant the whole family became aware of changes in Jane’s usual responses and behaviour. This eventually led to a diagnosis of dementia. 

After her initial diagnosis, Jane and Brian were referred to Dementia Wellington. Sarah Togher, one of our Wellington-based Dementia Advisors, phoned Brian for a chat and suggested he attend a Dementia Essentials seminar about ‘Understanding changed behaviour’. 

At first, he wasn't keen. Admitting that they need help feels like admitting defeat. Brian’s eldest son Simon offers to come along with him. The session was not at all what Brian had expected.

“It was really practical and I learned some useful tips to help Jane and I communicate better.”

He also started to think about how he was going to talk to the rest of the family before Christmas about Jane’s diagnosis. But it wasn’t just the practical ideas that helped. As Brian said to Simon afterwards:

“When I walked in and saw we were the only blokes, I felt a bit out of my depth. But it was so good meeting with other people who are in similar situations.”

Dementia Advisors like Sarah are experienced health professionals who specialise in dementia support. They have a huge range of experiences with different types and stages of dementia and family situations. They know how to access the assistance and help that is available now from public and private organisations, and can help clients like Brian and Jane make the most of that support.  

While our services have changed due to Covid restrictions,  our Dementia Advisors are busier than ever.

Working within the Covid guidelines, they still run regular one-to-one clinic sessions in Kāpiti, Porirua, Wellington and the Hutt Valley so nobody needs to travel far to meet up, and they are available by zoom/phone/email or to meet in person in cafes or homes with clients and their families.

For Brian and Jane things at home have changed a lot.  Jane always used to do the cooking but that’s becoming almost impossible for her. Now Brian does more of the cooking and cleaning than he has ever done their whole marriage.  In fact, things are probably a bit more difficult at home than Brian wants to admit. When he left Jane in the house on her own recently, she tried to fry some eggs while he was out and nearly started a fire in the kitchen.

“I’m worried about Christmas. We usually have a crowd over on Christmas Day - with Jane doing most of the catering. That’s not going to happen this year.”

Dementia Advisor Sarah offers to meet up with Brian and encourages Brian to bring Simon along again. Simon is keen on the idea.

“I know  it’s hard to find the right way to say it, but I think we need to start telling the rest of the family what’s going on,” says Simon when they all meet up.

“They haven’t seen Mum and Dad much this year because of Covid and it’s going to be a big shock if they turn up at Christmas without so much as a hint.”

Neither Brian nor Jane want to let the wider family in on what’s been happening. But Christmas will be a big strain on Jane - and Brian can see that they can’t keep things secret for much longer. 

Brian felt like the discussion with Sarah was a bit of a turning point when he finally admitted to himself that he needed to reach out and draw in the extended family. Brian said later to a friend.

“I have always been a straight-talker but I had made this topic off limits. After talking with Sarah, Simon and I rang around the family to give them the heads up.”

“It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but the information and advice I had got from Dementia Wellington really helped me find the right words. I was able to explain things clearly and let them know what we needed this Christmas.  It was quite a relief really to get it off my chest.”

His sister Sheila’s reaction surprised him – she had known something was happening.

“I thought something was up with her when I spoke to her on the phone,” she said. “Why don’t we have Christmas at our place this year? My kids are away with their partners so it’ll be a bit smaller anyway. And your children and the grandkids are welcome of course.” 

This offer is a weight off his mind and Sheila lives close enough for Jane and Brian to leave early if it all gets a bit much!

The one-on-one support to families like Brian and Jane’s from our Dementia Advisors is particularly important under current Covid restrictions. It’s the personal approach that really makes a difference.

Our Dementia Advisors have decades of experience and training between them.  They really work to understand the specific situations of people like Brian and Jane and as dementia can progress slowly, they work with the same families over years – supporting them at each step of their journey with dementia.

Right now, we have six Dementia Advisors supporting about 1300 clients like Brian and Jane in the Wellington region. The Dementia Advisors support people from the local community in Kāpiti, Porirua, Wellington and the Hutt Valley.

With your support, you will be helping people like Jane and Brian and their families, through the work of our Dementia Advisors.

Your gift today will help support one-on-one clinic sessions with a Dementia Advisor, where clients can talk openly and get sound and timely advice.  

 

 

This is thanks to you, as you help people to live well with dementia.

Your help could go toward providing more local clinic sessions, so carers don’t have to worry about travelling far to attend these vital clinic sessions.

For a long time, dementia has been a stigmatised and silent disease. Your gift of could assist in demystifying it for more families.

Please make your Christmas gift today. Your urgent action will help give life-changing support. Help us help families through the ‘ups and downs’ this Christmas and into the New Year.

 

Ngā mihi,  

 

Anne Schumacher | Chief Executive

Noho ora ana i roto i te mate wareware - Living well with dementia 

P.S. we appreciate you may be facing your own challenges at this time – but please donate today if you can, and help break the stigma of dementia in your community.

 

For anonymity in this appeal, the names and some accounts have been changed, also using photos of actors.