Skip to content
Teresa talking to her dad Bob

How to navigate life with dementia

As a Dementia Service Design Manager at ACH Group, Teresa Moran played a pivotal role in the design and implementation of a variety of programs, services, and care strategies to support residents and customers living with dementia. Her passion for educating others about good lives for older people saw Teresa transitioning to a new role as a Learning and Development Business Partner.

What is the one thing that Teresa wants people to know about dementia? Dementia doesn’t have to define you.

Teresa with her dad Bob, having a cup of tea in the garden
Teresa treasures the moments with her father Bob.

As a human services professional with a career spanning more than 28 years, I have devoted the last 18 years to supporting people living with dementia, and their supporters and family members.

However, it was the personal experience of my father’s diagnosis that has cemented my learnings and further instilled my profound respect for those living with and alongside dementia.

My Dad, Bob, was born in 1946 and was raised on a farm near Adelaide, leaving home at 15 to join the Royal Australian Navy. He served for 20 years as a Marine Engineer, retiring as a Warrant Officer. He married at 21 and I came along not long after.

As a father, he has always provided unwavering support and guidance, emphasising the importance of education while instilling a love for nature and environmental care.

He has always been busy, active, and able to turn his hand to just about anything, managing a successful vineyard, constructing his own almond-cracking plant, and maintaining viticulture machinery in his workshop.

Things started to change in September 2020 when my Mum, Carol, and I began to notice significant changes in Dad’s memory and thinking.

The variety and severity of changes progressed to difficulty with word-finding ability, frequently losing things, and reduced ability to undertake daily activities.

After a few unhelpful GP visits followed by two significant falls, I finally facilitated a referral to a dementia specialist GP who confirmed what we suspected: a diagnosis of dementia.

We adopted a reablement approach to Dad’s diagnosis, supported by his pragmatic perspective of “I’ve got it so I might as well live with it and take it in my stride.”

This approach required individualised support from allied health professionals including a psychologist, occupational therapist, and exercise physiologist.

After scans from a geriatrician confirmed the dementia was Alzheimer’s disease, Dad was prescribed a trial memory medication to support his cognition.

I assisted Mum and Dad in obtaining a referral to My Aged Care, which provided the necessary funding for physical activity, social engagement, domestic and IT support.

Family portrait with Carol - mum, Bob - dad, Teresa - who is a dementia specialist.
Teresa's parents made various adjustments to their life routine.

Equipped with a diagnosis and a network of support, Mum and Dad made various adjustments to their life routine, which included the continuation of weekly croquet, choir, gym sessions, as well as attending a dementia social group.

Dad has strategies to navigate social encounters and a repertoire of ‘dad jokes’ to lighten such situations.

He admirably made the decision to be open about his diagnosis with his family and friends, hoping that it could educate others in understanding this disease and help provide the necessary support and understanding he requires.

I can’t help but admire my dad for accepting his diagnosis and for Mum and Dad’s resilience to forge a new path forward.

Their experience to date has further reinforced that with a proactive approach, a caring support team, and some good advocacy, people with dementia can live beyond their diagnosis.

In his own words: “Dementia does not have to define me.”

My advice for others on a similar path is to seek out whatever advice and assistance you can. Dementia Australia’s helpline offers excellent support for navigating the early stages of diagnosis, whilst websites including Dementia Australia and Forward with Dementia offer fantastic written information to provide information about a reablement approach and additional support.

Good Lives Magazine

This article was published in Good Lives Magazine – Issue 12.

Blog

Visit our blog to find out more about healthy ageing and staying active.

Support for people living with dementia

ACH Group provides a wide range of social experiences, allied health and wellbeing services, and domestic and personal care support.

These services can be accessed by people living with dementia through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme or a Home Care Package.

ACH Group can assist you to access support and services that are right for you and connect you with activities to suit your interests. Contact us today.

 

About ACH

@achgroup