‘It’s no use feeling sorry’
BEING diagnosed with alzheimers disease at just 58 came as a huge shock for Michael Sumner.
The former KiwiRail employee’s workmates were some of the first to realize there was a problem.
“I started repeating myself all the time without knowing it,” Michael says.
“I’d give guys an instruction to go out, then might come back in 10 minutes and tell them again.”
After the initial shock of his diagnosis wore off, the Ponsonby resident and his partner Stephen Streifler decided to enjoy life while Michael is still well.
Alzheimers Auckland, which is involved with Alzheimers Awareness and Appeal week starting on Sunday, organised for Michael to volunteer two days a week at Selwyn Village in Pt Chevalier to give him an outlet now that he is unable to work.
The pair recently completed the Wellington half marathon and have planned a trip to Europe in August.
“You feel cheated, like this shouldn’t be,” Stephen, 40, says.
“But there’s no use feeling sorry for yourself and getting resentful. You’ve just got to get on with life.”
As Michael’s condition worsens, he will need 24hour care which Stephen is determined to provide, despite the reality of having to give up fulltime work at some point.
However, Stephen says a six-week course run by Alzheimers Auckland on how to cope as the disease progresses has helped prepare him for what’s to come.
It includes strategies on how to deal with alzheimers patients when they become frustrated or angry.
Michael says there are some occasions where frustration has set in because he can’t remember certain things.
“I might be looking for the TV remote and it’s sitting on the seat beside me.
“It’s worse when I get tired and develop a short fuse.”
Alzheimers Auckland general manager Bonnie Robinson says it’s important to consider how the disease can affect those close to the patient.
“About six or seven other people are affected by the diagnosis, which is quite a lot of people who need support.”
While most people who suffer from alzheimers are over the age of 65, she says an increasing number of younger people are developing the condition.
Along with courses to help carers, the charitable group offers information sessions and short-term respite care.
For information or to make a donation visit www. alzheimers.co.nz or call 0800-004-001.
Precious time: Alzheimers sufferer Michael Sumner, left, and partner Stephen Streifler have received plenty of help dealing with the disease from charitable organisation Alzheimers Auckland.