Dementia: taking the next step
THREE years ago Carol Liavis, whose father was diagnosed with dementia at age 60, was reflecting on all those difficulties she and her family had encountered when learning to live with the disease.
Her mother was determined to care for her husband at home, and as his condition became more advanced, Carol, her two sisters and mother increasingly shared the caring duties, with support from in-home services.
Carol said they found a lot of information when her father Colin was diagnosed 16 years ago. The hardest thing for the family was navigating through it all.
But there are plenty of families who don’t realise the amount of help available.
In Victoria, 72,000 people live with dementia, and 56 people every day develop the disease.
“I thought presenting information visually with people who have loved ones with dementia might be very helpful,” she said.
“It’s very hard at the start – there’s numbness, grief and fear, you feel like your world’s opening up and you’re being swallowed.”
Carol’s idea led to the production of the film Dementia: Taking the Next Step, developed by Alzheimer’s Australia Vic and recently launched by Health and Ageing Minister David Davis.
It is available free on DVD, and is being distributed to dementia services and other Victorian health organisations.
Carol’s family was one of three interviewed for the 25-minute production, which also features dementia specialist Associate Professor Michael Woodward, who provides an overview of dementia, how to understand what is happening, making adjustments and getting help.
“It’s important that people know life doesn’t end with diagnosis,” Carol said.
“We made the decision to keep dad at home. He’s now in very advanced stages and can’t really communicate, but we try to engage him and keep him comfortable.
“There is help there and people need to know that. Dad goes to a day care centre, which gives mum respite, and there are visiting services.
“He can have his down days and it’s hard work, but it’s about his will to keep going as well. We’re in there fighting with him.”
Carol said the family’s experience with her father had brought them closer together. For many families, the opposite was true.
“It’s devastating to see a loved one slip away,” she said. “But it has brought us closer. Our kids, the grandchildren, think the world of their grandad.”
Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, phone
(03) 9815-7800, www.fightdementia.org.au