Cou­ple makes move for fam­ily

Life changes: De­men­tia di­ag­no­sis throws cou­ple a curve ball

Central and North Burnett Times - - OVER 50S - Erica Murree erica.murree@cnbtimes.com.au

SIX years ago, Den­nis Sly and Jenny Babbs packed up their Na­rooma home on the south coast of New South Wales, just down the road from Bates­man Bay, and hit the road, bound for Biggen­den to be closer to fam­ily.

The semi-re­tired cou­ple chose the town as it was half­way be­tween their daugh­ters at Mackay and sons in Bris­bane and Ipswich, while other fam­ily mem­bers were scat­tered through the state.

Den­nis said he of­ten won­dered, why Biggen­den?

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great spot to live when you are healthy, but is iso­lated when you need spe­cial­ist treat­ment,” he said.

Just after the cou­ple ar­rived in Biggen­den, Jenny was di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia.

To­day, after 23 years to­gether, Den­nis is her carer.

“It’s full time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

“We do ev­ery­thing to­gether. It’s awk­ward at times but we man­age.

“The big plus is we have some good friends who I can call on when I need help.”

Den­nis said Jenny used to care for de­men­tia pa­tients in her work in aged care, but now it was her with the dis­ease.

He said one of Jenny’s main prob­lems was she could not han­dle Biggen­den’s hot tem­per­a­tures.

“It was 41 de­grees in the house on Sun­day plus it is so hu­mid here.”

The cou­ple spends most sum­mer days down­stairs, where it is cooler.

“We have a lounge and TV set up so we can sit back in the cool and re­lax,” Den­nis said.

A panel beater and spray painter by trade, Den­nis left the in­dus­try in 1980, when run­ning costs got out of hand.

Th­ese days, Den­nis en­joys restor­ing old cars.

“Of course it’s nearly al­ways been Fords,” he said. “It gives me some­thing to do. I get un­der the house and play. One year I was awarded the peo­ple’s choice at the car show with my old blue (1964 Ford Fair­lane), which I’ve have for 14 years.

“I fully re­stored it my­self.”

The car takes pride of place un­der the house, along­side his 1978 Fal­con and 1972 Cortina.

Den­nis calls him­self a “jack of all trades”, hav­ing en­joyed many ca­reers.

“I spent 14 years – the last two with Jenny – trav­el­ling the coun­try­side do­ing sea­sonal work,” he said.

“It’s a great way to see the county and you meet lots of nice peo­ple.”

Be­fore the cou­ple moved to Biggen­den, they had a lawn mow­ing business.

“We mowed 72 lawns ev­ery fort­night,” he said.

Den­nis said the cou­ple did go back to Na­rooma for two years, but came back when their ten­ants moved out un­ex­pect­edly.

“With Jenny’s ill health we in­tend to move back down to NSW,” he said.

“We would re­ally love to pick the house up and take it with us, but now it’s on the mar­ket.”

Den­nis said ev­ery room of the home was painted blue but he had re­dec­o­rated with softer tones.

Pride of place on the din­ing room wall is a poster of the movie African Queen, star­ring Humphrey Bog­art and Au­drey Hep­burn.

“Jenny loved the movie and when she found the poster I framed it for her,” he said.

Un­til they sell their Mary St home, you will find Den­nis tin­ker­ing with his cars while Jenny en­joys her favourite pro­gram, the Bold and the Beau­ti­ful.

PHOTO: ERICA MURREE

BACK TO NSW: Den­nis Sly and Jenny Babbs have now been to­gether for 23 years.

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