Meet the Victorian couple embracing dementia
When writer Brian Ridden was diagnosed with dementia four years ago, his wife Elva became his primary carer.
Two years later, Elva was diagnosed as well. But they’ve been able to manage their symptoms by helping each other.
“He’s been able to do things I can’t do and I’ve been able to do things he can’t do,” Mrs Ridden said. “So we’ve formed a partnership which is working pretty well.”
The couple from Shepparton, in northeast Victoria, sing, write and stay active.
Mr Ridden said recognising symptoms and not living in denial was critical for people living with the condition.
“You have to get out there and do things and be yourself and do what you usually do,” he said. “Sure, if you need help, then get help. Attitude has a great deal to do with it.”
“He’s been able to do things I can’t do and I’ve been able to do things he can’t do. So we’ve formed a partnership which is working pretty well.”
Dementia is considered the second leading cause of death in Australia. With a critical need for more investment and research into the condition, experts are meeting across the country for Dementia Awareness Month.
Gill Ayling, the head of the British government’s dementia strategy, said people need to be educated about it from an early age.
“If you can catch it early you can start to understand what it means and what’s going to happen to you,” she said. “You can make choices about your future when you can no longer make choices.
“It’s really important that we catch people early.”
More than 340,000 Australians are living with dementia, a figure that’s expected to climb to 400,000 within a decade. But experts say it’s still not getting the attention it deserves.
“When someone’s got a physical disability you can actually see that,” said Maree McCabe, the CEO of the Victorian branch of Alzheimer’s Australia. “Our communities actually cater quite well for people with physical disabilities.
“But we are such a long way from being able to support people with a cognitive disability.”
With an aging population, Brian and Elva Ridden’s story could become more common. But they’re adamant their strategy is the best way to treat the condition.
“It’s very important with dementia to not hide in a burrow,” Mr Ridden said. “A lot people get very down and depressed and they draw into themselves. But it’s the worst thing you can do.”