For three years Perth writer and journalist Ros Thomas juggled the demands of raising a young family, working full time and caring for her mum Joan, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2015.
At the same time Ros was delighting readers with her incredibly relatable tales published weekly in The West Australian newspaper, she was also dealing with the confusing and often confronting symptoms of her mum’s (at the time undiagnosed) Alzheimer’s.
“We had a very upsetting episode where she left my 3-year-old daughter in a park alone and walked home without her. She seemed unable to comprehend the danger,” said Ros.
Shortly after, Joan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and with no siblings to call on for help or support Ros became her mum’s sole carer.
“Her memory declined slowly in the beginning. Then came more severe memory issues. She became unreliable socially, couldn’t follow her diary, absorb the newspaper, pay bills, cope with loud noises, or tolerate serious discussions,” she added.
Although Joan was still living in her own home and fiercely protective of her independence, it was in fact Ros who was running her mum’s day-to-day existence: taking care of the mail, cooking her dinner, organising medical appointments, arranging tradesmen, cleaners and gardeners, social interactions with friends and general household expenditure.
Joan also flatly refused any out-of-home respite and was determined not to move into any sort of care facility. However once the geriatrician advised her that Joan was no longer safe at home, Ros knew she had to get her mum moved into an aged care facility.
“Most days Mum’s Alzheimer’s does not inhibit her. She’s now settled at the aged care facility and loves being out in the garden. She’s still very independent. She attends WASO music concerts, catches up with her club to play table tennis once a week, walks, rides her bike, is part of a movie club and attends social functions. For all my guilty frustrations about putting her in care, I’m delighted she has retained much of her independence.”
National Carers Week runs 14 -20 October 2018. There is an estimated 41,100 people living with dementia in WA and almost two thirds live at home, requiring part or full time care.
If you care for a person living with dementia, contact Alzheimer’s WA on 1300 66 77 88 or alzheimerswa.org.au for information on support and services available.