Patience plea for dementia sufferers

Arran Morton, SOUND TELEGRAPHSound Telegraph

It was after the death of Beryl Yates' devoted long-term partner that her daughters started to notice their mother's forgetfulness.

Mrs Yates frequently forgot where she had parked her car and often found herself lost while travelling on public transport, her daughter Debbie Grassi said.

Mrs Grassi said her mother began to hide food and became worried that others might steal from her - symptoms, she soon discovered, were typical of the early onset of Alzheimer's disease.

She said the next 12 months were heartbreaking and exhausting, before Mrs Yates' family made the painful decision to move their mother into full-time care this year. "Mum and her partner were never without the other for a minute - we felt like mum went downhill overnight after he died, but the Dementia Foundation told us it had probably been happening for a while and he may have been covering for her," Mrs Grassi said.

"She started visiting the shops four or five times a day and wondering at night time - both my sister Maree and I wanted to look after her at home, but it wasn't safe for her."

Mrs Grassi and her sister Maree Little agreed placing their mother in full-time care in July was the most difficult decision they had ever had to make.

Mrs Little said the family were very close and their mother had been an ardent caregiver throughout their lives.

"Mum would talk about going back to the bush where she lived as a young woman and often becomes upset because she thinks her babies haven't come home - she doesn't realise we are all grown up," Mrs Little said.

"It's like we are the parents and she is the child - it's very sad."

Rockingham residents are reminded to be patient with seniors who may be struggling with memory, particularly during Dementia Awareness Month, which runs throughout September.

There are an estimated 320,000 people living with dementia in Australia.

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