‘Without this group, I would be lost’.
That was one of the first things Gwen said to me when I went to visit her, and her husband Charlie, at the Dementia Carers Group meeting at Bankstown Library.
This volunteer organisation provides peer support to carers who are looking after someone with dementia at home, in the Bankstown area, and organises regular social activities in the community. The group’s aim is to assist carers to cope with the inevitable changes that come with caring for someone with dementia, and to help introduce them to the service and health care systems they need to deal with along the way.
The group meets at the library every Monday for four hours for some lunch and entertainment, giving carers an opportunity to talk to volunteers and organisers about any concerns they have, and to organise additional home care and other help when it’s needed.
Gwen and Charlie have been married for 66 years and have lived in Greenacre for most of their married life. They have been coming to the drop-in centre for two years, and Gwen believes the group has saved them.
“They really are a great help. Some of the ladies here have their husbands with Dementia and some of the men have their wives… but we’re all in the same boat and they all understand. You’ve got someone to talk to.
“I realise how lucky I am when I see some of the other men here. We’ve got one gentleman who comes who eats serviettes if we don’t watch him. Charlie still talks and communicates… some of the other men don’t. You sort of get an idea of what’s coming and the ways to cope with it. Charlie likes to go and find people to talk to and that’s a problem sometimes. He disappears. You’ll say ‘lunch won’t be long’ – and he’s gone”.
Charlie was a train guard for 40 years and remembers everything about his youth. He can name almost every station, in order, along the Bankstown train line, but he often forgets what he has done yesterday.
Despite his ailing health, Charlie tries to be positive and still finds things to occupy his time. He used to play bingo but can’t anymore because he’s forgotten how to count, so he often colours-in or draws. He jokes that he still has a life goal, even at the ripe old age of 90.
“My mother lived until she was 99, so my aim is to live ‘til I’m 100!”.