Re­mem­ber­ing what’s re­ally im­por­tant

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - TA­MARA THORN

‘‘We all need to walk in an­other per­son's shoes once in a while.’’

A story writ­ten by a care­giver at a lo­cal rest home about a man with de­men­tia af­fected one of the judges so pro­foundly, it in­spired him to visit his own grand­fa­ther.

Max­ine Mathews saw a poster ad­ver­tis­ing the Vic­tory Books Amateurs Writ­ing Com­pe­ti­tion and de­cided to en­ter the short story cat­e­gory and write about some­one with de­men­tia. It won first place.

En­ti­tled ‘‘I’m Con­fused’’, Mathews said the story was in­spired by all the peo­ple with de­men­tia she has cared for dur­ing her five years at Ocea­nia’s Vic­to­ria Place rest home in Toko­roa.

Mathews said her story wasn’t based on any one per­son but on the strug­gles of many in­di­vid­u­als deal­ing with the dis­ease.

‘‘They don’t un­der­stand what’s hap­pen­ing to them – es­pe­cially dur­ing the early stages.’’

Mathews own brother-in-law was di­ag­nosed 18 months ago, ’’He does day stays at Vic­to­ria Place, but even­tu­ally he’ll re­quire full­time care as the dis­ease pro­gresses.’’

She said ‘‘What he goes through changed him [from] the per­son I once knew, to some­one com­pletely dif­fer­ent.’’

Mathews said the dis­ease ‘‘robs the fam­i­lies of the per­son they know,’’ and it was hard for them to look af­ter some­one like that at home.

She said her short story took her about a week to write and had a lot of sup­port and en­cour­age­ment from the peo­ple around her.

‘‘I thought ‘what do I have to lose?’’’

She said if her short story helps even one per­son to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what it’s like for some­one with de­men­tia, then she will be de­lighted.

‘‘If one per­son reads it and it changes the way they un­der­stood what a per­son with de­men­tia is go­ing through then I have done well.’’

Mathews said that peo­ple should never fear or be judg­men­tal about putting fam­ily mem­bers in a rest home, be­cause the staff were so ’’car­ing and com­pas­sion­ate’’.

She said the topic of her story comes from the love of her job, and said she would have no prob­lem putting her own fam­ily mem­bers into a rest home be­cause she knows the amount of care that is pro­vided.

‘‘We all need to walk in an­other per­son’s shoes once in awhile. I hope my story helps some­one do that.’’

TA­MARA THORN/FAIRFAX NZ

Health care as­sis­tant Max­ine Mathews has writ­ten an award-win­ning story about de­men­tia. Max­ine Mathews

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