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Wynnum Cafe is serving up fresh memories for people with dementia and their carers

Together: Kerry and Darryl Cox

WHEN Darryl and Kerry Cox went to see their family doctor he advised the couple to go out and make memories, and take lots of photos.

Darryl has already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and was suffering severe short-term memory loss.

Following their doctor’s advice the Cox’s embarked on a Mediterranean cruise of a lifetime. 

“We took lots and lots of photos. Now I look at those photos, love them and see we had a fabulous time and we were happy in that moment,” Mrs Cox said.

Photo albums of their trip are kept on the family coffee table so the memories can be enjoyed often.

Mrs Cox is now a full-time carer, and has witnessed her husband’s steady cognitive degeneration during the past four years.

“Now he does not remember anything once I’ve said it to him – it’s gone,” Mrs Cox said.

Recently the Brisbane Bayside couple attended a launch of Centacare’s newest Memory Café at The Coffee Club in Wynnum.

The café was set up to support people with dementia and those who care for them.

One of the most important outcomes of Memory Cafés is the formation of friendships among participants that provides and welcomes people with dementia and partners to spend time together socialising. 

The once-a-month café rendezvous provides a chance for people with dementia and their care partners to be themselves, to talk about their experiences, learn about local services, and simply enjoy great food and company.

“With the number of people experiencing dementia growing in our community, we are so pleased to be able to offer this successful program in Wynnum,” Centacare’s dementia strategy manager Anne Donaghy said.

Without a medical breakthrough on the horizon, the number of people with dementia in Australia is estimated to push above 500,000 by 2025.

Alarmingly, it now ranks as the second leading cause of death in Australia.

In 2014, Mrs Cox first noticed Darryl, who was 60 and still working as a steel estimator, was having trouble remembering simple things.

“It wasn’t until about 18 months ago that Darryl’s boss called and said ‘Kerry, we need to talk’,” she said. 

Mr Cox had worked with the same company for 30 years, but could no longer meet the job requirements.

Soon he was unable to drive competently.

“He went to pick up pizza where he had gone many times, and he got lost,” Mrs Cox said. 

“He had to pull up on the side of the road because he didn’t know where he was going, or why he was going.”

Mrs Cox was forced to abandon her own career of 35 years to take on responsibilities as a carer, as well as juggling life as a busy mother and grandmother.

Despite the hardships, she is thankful for what she has as a family and as a Catholic.

“When you get married you vow to stay together in sickness and in health,” Mrs Cox said.

“You don’t know what those words really mean until down the track.

“He is my husband, my partner, my soul mate, and has been for a lot of years so this is what I now do in life – I look after him.

“I’ve got three fabulous children and we are doing it together.”

Mrs Cox said she was grateful to learn about Wynnum’s new memory café, the fifth memory café opened by Centacare across south-east Queensland, and part of efforts to create dementia-inclusive communities.

“I think it’s a great idea. It’s a place we can feel comfortable,” she said.

The idea is a local adaptation of the first ever Alzheimer Café, established by a doctor in the Netherlands in the late 1990s.

Dementia is already a key health issue in Australia and one that will demand a response from federal and state governments administering health care and NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) funding.

Wynnum’s Memory Café will meet on the first Thursday of the month at The Coffee Club, 70/80 Bay Terrace, Wynnum. 

For more information about Centacare memory cafes contact Ann Donaghy: ann.donaghy@centacare.net.au

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