‘It’s no use feel­ing sorry’

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Scott Mor­gan

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.

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