One day at a time

By BELINDA SCOTT

ONE day at a time is how Dorothy Webb tackles her life. And One Day At A Time ? Sharing Life With Dementia, is the title of the book she has written about the life she shares with her husband, John Webb, who has the dementia condition Alzheimer's disease. Mrs Webb's book will be launched at Coffs Harbour City Library at 10am on Monday to mark the start of Dementia Awareness Week in Coffs Harbour. Mrs Webb said she wrote the book for three reasons: to encourage carers to survive; to provide information for families, friends and professionals and as therapy for herself. The book evolved over five years, with Mrs Webb recording her own experiences and listening to those of others. The process helped her to focus not only on the problems associated with Alzheimer's but also solutions and coping skills. "Statistics show carers often die first, before the person they are caring for," said Mrs Webb, who is 70. Her husband is 73 and they have been married for 16 years. It was a second marriage for each of them. Seven years ago Mrs Webb noticed her husband was becoming forgetful, and a year later she managed to get him to a doctor, who diagnosed Alzheimer's disease. An MRI last year showed he also had vascular dementia, which is caused by multiple mini-strokes. Last year the couple, who between them have five children and eight grandchildren, moved to Boambee from Sydney and both the Webbs enjoy the views, garden and space of their new home. Dorothy and John Webb have worked together on a number of projects on dementia, including producing a video for newly-diagnosed sufferers for a pharmaceutical company; publicising the police identity bracelet project Safely Home, and doing television interviews, including an appearance on Andrew Denton's show Enough Rope. Mrs Webb said care for someone with dementia posed very different challenges to caring for a person with physical disabilities and no dementia. "This person looks quite well, healthy and presents as happy and often conversational, although talking mostly of past things," she said. "The stress is in the changing relationship, the emotional stress and the interminable repetitious questions." Mrs Webb said the person with Alzheimer's slowly becomes more dependent but they don't realise it. "They think they can still do things, but they can't," she said. "John's a carpenter and it was so good having him do all the repairs and renovations, now I have to do it all myself again. I want to tell him something then I think 'what's the use ? he won't remember'. "The conversation is not there, it's all questions and answers like a three-year-old, so when I get into 'normal' company, I talk my head off ? that's why support groups are so good." Mrs Webb said the support groups enable carers to laugh about the things that often brought them to tears at home. "The things that scare us the most, we laugh at," Mrs Webb said. "He's still loving and caring but it's a one-sided thing ? it's what he needs rather than what I need. "What I most miss is the person he used to be... I miss him. It's the loneliness... it's like living on my own." One Day At A Time is self-published by Mrs Webb and is available from Pages Bookstore at Park Beach Plaza for RRP $19.95.



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