Understanding Dementia through the eyes of a daughter

A dementia diagnosis taught Brisbane woman Maryanne Oliver to see the beauty in every moment she shares with her mother. 

Three years ago Maryanne’s mum was told she had dementia.  While it was a relief to finally have some answers, it also changed their lives forever.  Her parents had been enjoying travelling around the country – then suddenly her dad became her mum’s carer.

“Dementia has so many layers of grief. Watching someone you love lose their memory and mobility right before your eyes is the ultimate heartache,” Maryanne Oliver said.

“Dad told me recently that the thing he misses most is just talking with her as she has difficulty concentrating.”

Maryanne, who works at the Department of Human Services in Brisbane, is one of the 1.5 million Australians who care for 450,000 Australians living with dementia. 

When her mum first received her diagnosis Maryanne felt incredibly lost and struggled to talk about it—even with close friends and family.

“Feeling defeated, I called Dementia Australia one day and literally just said ‘I have no idea what I’m trying to find out, I just need to know where I can go to, to support mum’,” Maryanne said.

“The lady I spoke with was everything I needed in that moment. She was so understanding and guided me through all the services and programs available to help us give mum the best life possible.”

The family has worked hard to find creative ways to reach treasured memories again through music, word find, quizzes and lots of kindness and patience.

“Mum is now in a very happy and loving state of mind,” Maryanne said.

“I recently took her out for coffee and she was staring at me – she does that a lot now. I said to her jokingly ‘you’re staring at me again Mum’ and she responded ‘I know, I just don’t want to forget you’.

“It was beautiful – these moments are really emotional but beautiful. She’ll stare at you and you can just see the love in her eyes.”

Maryanne is sharing her story to raise awareness during Dementia Action Week.  This year’s theme is ‘Dementia doesn’t discriminate. Do you?’

“As a society we tuck people with dementia away because we’re afraid of what people will think – they make assumptions – but I refuse to do that with Mum because she loves going out for coffee, lunch, a walk or just being out amongst people,” she said.

“The more we share our experiences and stories, the more we can understand and support those affected by dementia and be part of creating a dementia friendly community.”

For more information more about Dementia Australia and the services they provide, visit dementia.org.au.

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