Dealing with the curse of dementia
TRENT Wakerley's fondest memories of his dad will always be time spent surfing, watching the State or Origin and the smile on his father's face when holding his grandchildren for the first time.
In 2009, David Wakerley was diagnosed with early onset dementia, aged 63. It was a life-changing diagnosis which was also incurable.
"When dad was initially diagnosed there was a lot of uncertainty about how it would affect him and how severe it may be,” Mr Wakerley (Trent) said.
"At that stage, he was experiencing short term memory loss, had difficulty retaining information and was beginning to withdraw from social occasions.
"One of my biggest worries was that he would ultimately forget who I was.”
This Sunday, Mr Wakerley will be taking part in the first Wishlist Teddy Bears' Picnic on National Grandparents Day to raise funds for a specially-designed outdoor area for dementia patients receiving treatment at Nambour Hospital's Acute Restorative Care (ARC) Unit.
The event - to be held at Cotton Tree Park from 9am until midday - is tipped to raise more than $20,000 for ARC's innovative project which will include a sensory garden, mini workshop and other stimulating therapeutic tools in an environment which will be a first on the Coast for dementia patients.
"We try to assist with Wishlist events when we can,” Mr Wakerley added.
"The Teddy Bears' Picnic had a connection for me as it's raising money to make life easier for patients with dementia at Nambour hospital and my dad suffered from dementia before his passing in 2014.
"The event was also a good fit for my law firm Kruger Law as we do a lot of work in elder law, retirement villages and aged care and enjoy assisting Sunshine Coast's older residents.”With the aging population and increasing instances of dementia being diagnosed, any strategies to improve quality of life for those suffering and those close to them needs to be encouraged.”
Mr Wakerley remembers when his father's diagnosis was confirmed in 2012 - the same year as the birth of his third child.
"Our eldest children were only three and two years old and it saddened me greatly to know that my children wouldn't have the benefit of dad's wonderful influence and guidance as they grew up.
"They wouldn't get to experience his great qualities that made me admire and respect him so much.”
In his younger days, David played rugby league for Easts in Brisbane, and captain-coached teams in Ingham and Souths in Mackay, and later worked as a salesman before retiring.
But just years into his retirement the father-of-two became increasingly dependent, needing assistance in almost every area of his life and experienced personality changes - all heartbreaking symptoms of his dementia diagnosis.
"The most difficult part for dad was his claustrophobia combined with the completely opposite issues with security.
"He needed the house to be completely locked up by 5pm, but then panicked as he felt claustrophobic and needed to escape. It was so traumatic for him.
"My parents and my sister's family had a dual-living arrangement which enabled dad to have family support around the clock.”
Lack of sleep was another problem and David rarely slept at night. Everyday tasks also became a struggle, as well as progressive memory loss.
"The most difficult part for our family was knowing the turmoil that he was going through, but being unable to help him. The gradual decline in brain functioning and cognitive ability is very difficult to see in someone you love.”
According the Australian Department of Health, there are more than 413,106 Australians living with dementia that require specialist care and that number is expected to grow to 536,164 by 2025.
To support dementia patients on the Coast, join Wishlist for their Teddy Bears' Picnic this Sunday. Tickets are just $10 which includes a food, drink and activities voucher to be redeemed at the event.
Teddy Bears' Picnic on National Grandparents Day
When: This Sunday October 29
Time: 9am until midday
Where: Cotton Tree Park
Cost: $10 each which includes food, drinks and activities voucher.