Rotorua Weekender

Couple shares impact of dementia

Younger dementia sufferer urges more support, awareness


Dave Ngatai’s memory used to hold on to everything from names and faces to the inner workings of the trucks he drove in the army. Now, due to dementia, Dave has an attention span of less than a minute.

“Now, I’m talking with someone; I have to write it down. I have to carry my diary with me everywhere.”

Dave and his wife and carer, Vicki, shared their story with NZME after the World Alzheimers Report highlighte­d the need for ongoing community support for people with dementia post-diagnosis.

A policeman for 11 years, former Army truck driver, driving instructor and grandfathe­r-of-three, Dave enjoyed having a lot on his plate.

But his lifestyle has been changing since he was diagnosed with earlyonset dementia a few years ago in his late 50s.

“I used to remember heaps of things. It’s only in the last five years or so that it’s got really worse.

“I still do things and I keep trying to do things, but every now and then I forget how to do something and I have to sit down and work it out. It’s a real pain in the bum.”

Dave, now 62, reads and keeps busy around the house to keep his brain active. He knows it is only a matter of time before he loses more of his independen­ce.

“I’ve got no control over it. I just keep trying to be good about it all.”

Vicki, Dave’s wife of 38 years, said when Dave was diagnosed in 2019, he was shocked. Vicki thought it would take years for the condition to progress.

However, being home and unable to work during the Covid-19 pandemic accelerate­d her husband’s dementia.

“This year is the main year where it’s gotten worse. For him, it’s frustrat

● Dementia impacts more women than men — the rate around 30 per cent higher.

● The total cost of dementia to Aotearoa is now around $2.5b and will reach around $5.9b by 2050.

● Care partners provide over one million hours of unpaid care every week.

Alzheimers New Zealand

ing. It’s frustratin­g for me, too. He’s not the same person I married. He’s in his own world now.”

She said there needed to be more dementia awareness in the community.

“I just think they need more acknowledg­ment out there for younger ones coming through with it. There’s nothing for them to do, nothing to occupy their minds. That would be the worst thing.”

Vicki said it would be great for Dave to be able to get out of the house and do activities without the need for her supervisio­n.

Vicki said the biggest difficulty for her was finding patience, even after she’d been asked the same question for the hundredth time in one day.

Vicki said she and Dave planned to move from pōtiki to Whakatāne next year, where there would be more support services available.

According to Alzheimers New Zealand, as many as 30,000 New Zealanders with dementia and around as many care partners can’t get the postdiagno­stic community support they need.

Alzheimers New Zealand chief executive Catherine Hall said local Alzheimers and dementia organisati­ons were in need of “urgent funding”.

“To really help all the New Zealanders with dementia and their care partners, New Zealand needs to start focusing on reducing the incidence of dementia for the future, provide timely diagnosis, deliver flexible services across the dementia journey for people with dementia and carers, address the challenges around stigma and social isolation, and address the significan­t equity issues.”

Audika Bay of Plenty is hosting an event to raise awareness of dementia this weekend. The event is to complete 100 laps of Mauao.

There will be around 20 walkers from the clinic with family and friends, as well as some residents from the retirement villages, and the wider community is welcome to attend. Those interested in attending should meet outside the Mount Surf Life Saving Club on Saturday at 10am.

 ?? ?? Dave Ngatai and his wife, Vicki. Dave was diagnosed with early onset dementia in his late 50s.
Dave Ngatai and his wife, Vicki. Dave was diagnosed with early onset dementia in his late 50s.
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand