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Who will you remember this Christmas?

Please help end the loneliness and isolation felt by people living with dementia this Christmas.

The many rituals of Christmas are one of the reasons this time of year is just so magical. The familiar smells and taste of Christmas baking, the reminiscent sound of carols playing at home and in the shops, and of course the sign that truly heralds the coming season – the sight of the Christmas tree laced with lights and trinkets collected along the years.

But we know Christmas is much more than that. Christmas is a time to reflect on who is present at our table, not just on the presents under the tree. And when your family has been touched by dementia you value each and every Christmas with your loved one just that little bit more, because you know it may be your last.

The saying ‘hard times will reveal true friends’ is never more true than when you receive a diagnosis of dementia. Family members don’t know what to say. Friends often don’t understand so stop calling. But it does not have to be this way.

This is why we are committed to building dementia friendly communities in suburbs and towns throughout Western Australia.

Your donation will help people living with dementia spend as many Christmases as possible in the home they have created, the home they know and love, surrounded by familiar things and faces.

By supporting Alzheimer’s WA today you will help people living with dementia to have opportunities to engage with others so they do not feel lonely or isolated.

To make your donation: 

Please donate today >>

Set a place for a loved one missed this Christmas: 

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Ruth and Mike

Their Story

Ruth met Mike at a pony club dance in Baldivis, and they were together from that day. They married two years later, purchased a farm near Mt Barker and spent their honeymoon making it theirs. They went on to have four beautiful children who Mike adored.

Mike started farming sheep and cattle before deciding to create an Angus cattle stud.

“Mike loved researching for top genetics and breeding fine Angus bulls,” said Ruth.

Ruth and Mike were meant to enjoy a long life together on their farm, culminating in a well earned retirement. But Mike’s life was tragically cut short before he had even had a chance to make his retirement plans.

Mike was diagnosed with younger onset dementia in 2012, when he was only 61 years old.

Ruth said at the time of his diagnosis, Mike was managing their farm and was the main income earner for the family of six.

“We had been married just over 33 years when Mike was given the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease after many tests,” said Ruth.

“He went from being able to run a farm and do all the bookwork to a frightened man who was only interested in our chooks. He was physically fit. His work ethic made him get up each day and attempt to carry on farming.”

Ruth said their now grown children were a great support. Their children Anne, Sarah, Claire and Jarrad were there whenever they could be, helping out on the farm and supporting Ruth. But when you are living with dementia, you need more than just the support of your immediate family. You need support from members of your local community too.

Mike’s memory loss was so quick and they had so many decisions to make that at times it was rather overwhelming.

“Thank goodness for our supportive neighbours and Claire’s boss for letting her come home to run the farm. Mike’s family were and still are very supportive to us,” said Ruth.

“Mike was accepting of the fact he could no longer farm but it caused him great sadness. His many talents were being taken away and finding something to keep him occupied was proving difficult.”

Being so young, Mike’s decline was rapid. He sadly passed away only two years later at the age of 63, leaving behind Ruth, their four adult children and five grandchildren.

“I know Mike was terrified of dementia – his mother had Alzheimer’s too but she was well into her 80’s,” Ruth said.

“I lost my best friend, my way of life and my biggest support person when Mike died.”

They had been married for 35 years and one week.

Dementia can affect how people view the world around them, and for Mike that meant he felt safest at home. For Ruth however, this made it difficult to leave the farm to visit family and friends or run errands.

Having people around her who understood dementia and how Mike felt made the world of difference.

“We had support workers come to our home from Hawthorn House as Mike didn’t like leaving the farm at times. Our true angels were the ladies at Alzheimer’s WA’s Hawthorn House in Albany,” said Ruth.

“I made myself walk through the front doors not long after Mike was diagnosed as I knew I didn’t know enough to support him or our kids or myself. They were always able to listen and give sound advice. I leaned on them so much and Mike came to trust them.”

“You cannot travel this journey of dementia without the caring support of others.”

For Ruth and her four children, it will be their fifth year without husband and father Mike at the Christmas table, who was taken too soon by dementia.

“Mike always gave out the Christmas presents from under the tree after we all had breakfast, usually cinnamon rolls.”

“But he also made the kids wait! He would always leave the house to check cows or fences or some excuse and then not come back in for way too long. He sure knew how to string out the anticipation! I, of course, had to let the kids open their smallest present just so I could get some peace!”

Everyone living with dementia deserves to feel supported and loved, just like Ruth and Mike.

Will you help people like Ruth and Mike by making a donation to our Christmas Appeal today?

Please donate today >>

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