Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Ageing and the jigsaw of life

THE right to privacy dictates that the subjects of today's Classie Corner are not identified; this Redland family is in the grip of one of modern society's cruellest health problems. The authorities say 1.5 million Australians have dementia but the knowledge “you are not alone” doesn't make life any easier for those who cope with an illness that steals the personality of their loved ones. Sue, of Ormiston, noticed early symptoms in her mother, we'll call her “Louise”, about three years ago.

THEN aged in her early eighties, enjoying her painting and crafts, and living happily with her husband of almost six decades in their Cleveland retirement unit, Louise had memory lapses. “She would be unable to find things and would put things where nobody else could find them,” Sue recalls. “Gradually she lost her sense of time and place, and her ability to manage everyday life. She would get mixed up on the time of day and be unable to tell whether she would have breakfast, lunch or dinner. Her forgetfulness led to dangers and we had to take away appliances that could cause problems.”

ABOUT one year ago, a gerontologist diagnosed Alzheimer's disease but Sue says her mum could keep living in the unit, with support from community agency PresCare and the day respite centre Killara Place. Sue says her parents both caught pneumonia last month and it became clear that they could no longer live independently. Louise is now a patient at Redland Residential Care, Weippin St, Cleveland; Sue and her husband are rearranging their house to accommodate her dad. The aged care facility is part of the Redland Hospital complex. The caring attitudes of the staff have impressed Sue, who visits her mum almost every day.

SUE found that her mum, who kept busy with art and crafts for many years, has developed a liking for jigsaw puzzles. "She started with a 40-piece puzzle and I think she could handle up to 100 pieces but not the big 500-piece puzzles," Sue says. Sue has trouble sourcing suitable puzzles, so placed a “wanted” notice seeking those designed for children aged four to six; she specified "no missing pieces".

MOST puzzles in the category feature children's or cartoon themes; simple puzzles showing landscapes or other scenes suitable for a senior are rare, Sue says. After Louise has solved the jigsaws, they join the centre's collection so other dementia patients can also enjoy them. It seems donations of jigaw puzzles to aged care facilities such as Redland Residential Care would meet a need.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times. Image from

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