Dementia strikes at the hearts of close ones too

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It was a harrowing time for Joe Macarthur when he found out his mother Ann had Alzheimers Disease - just days after his father suddenly passed away.

Joe, from Ponsonby, said it was extremely tough not knowing who to turn to, or how to help his mother.

"Finding no one to help, I walked into Alzheimers Auckland. It was about five past nine and the poor receptionist probably hadn't even had a cup of coffee yet, and I broke down, into that ugly kind of cry.

"They were amazing. The biggest thing for me, other than a coffee and some reassurance, was that they took my contact details and said 'we will look after everything, we will look after you' at a time where I was having to instigate everything."

Research shows two in three New Zealanders will be affected by dementia in some way throughout their lifetime, as the impact of dementia is wider than just those who are diagnosed.

Being a carer for someone with dementia can be challenging. The bulk of the strain lies on those diagnosed with dementia but carers also require support and assistance.

To carry on supporting people such as Joe and his mother, Alzheimers Auckland is looking for volunteers to collect donations outside Countdown stores from July 1-3 as part of the Countdown Annual Alzheimers Appeal.

The money raised will go towards Alzheimers Auckland's support services for more than 1600 people living with dementia.

Joe said the organisation not only helped him to understand dementia, but how to support his mum.

"In particular, for me, they taught me how to talk to my mother because I was constantly going through conflict with her. I didn't' know what Alzheimers was, or that me trying to get her to do things was challenging for her."

He said after his father had passed away, he thought Ann was grieving the loss of her husband.

"I thought Mum was just going through shock and grief like I was, but it was progressing to be really unusual."

He eventually found out his mother had been diagnosed with dementia the year before, after talking to the family doctor.

"With Mum and Dad being together for 60 years, they looked after each other. I kept thinking Mum was losing her hearing. Only in retrospect, do you start thinking 'that was a sign, that was a sign.' They worked together, it wasn't until he passed away that she didn't have her back-up that she got worse."

Joe said without Alzheimers Auckland's "amazing" help, it would have made a tough time unbearable, and he encouraged others to seek help as well.

To support Alzheimers Auckland (and the work it does for people with dementia and their carers) by volunteering outside a local Countdown from July 1-3, email Sarah Knight on volunteer@alzheimers.co.nz

- The Aucklander

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