Learning to dance in the rain

When Marlene, 66, couldn’t find her car keys for the second time that week, she chalked it up to simple forgetfulness. But then daughter Cassie noticed her mum had the occasional memory slip and was acting out of character. The once health-conscious business owner quit her weekly social tennis and lost interest in her business. After being diagnosed first with depression and seeking the help of various health professionals, tests eventually showed Marlene had dementia.

Dementia is a degenerative brain disease; its most common form is Alzheimer’s. In 2017 it became Australia’s biggest killer of women and second biggest killer of men, behind heart disease. According to Dementia Australia there are more than 413,106 Australians living with dementia, which is tipped to rise to around 1 million by the middle of the century. Generally, it affects people over the age of 75, but those in their sixties, fifties and even forties can be diagnosed with early onset dementia.

Dementia is far more complex than just forgetting people’s names or wandering off. It can affect mood, emotions and things that might surprise you, like fine motor skills. For example, doing up buttons or eating with a knife and fork can be challenging.

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