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Audrey and Amy’s story Post Cover Image

I’ve been growing out my hair since I was 8 years old and always envisioned cutting it once it was long enough to donate. However, as time passed I just kept growing and growing it until it reached well past my waist.

The outbreak of Covid-19 meant that I would no longer be able to attend Camp America, where I would have been working in my dream camp, enriching the lives of people living with disabilities. Instead, I found myself enrolling in a university and I decided it was time for a change.

On the 10th June, I finally cut and donated my hair to Freedom Wigs, who provide hair prosthetics to people suffering from long term hair loss issues in New Zealand. Freedom Wigs can’t accept hair as a gift or donation, so individuals who give their hair have to be paid, or, they can donate it to a charity or organisation of their choice. I chose Alzheimers New Zealand. My nana is the reason why.

For many years, my nana used to say, “It’s ok I’m getting forgetful, it’s when you can’t remember you’re forgetting it becomes a problem.” Lena Audrey Wightman, or Audrey as many knew her, was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease at Christmas 2012, when I was 11. Nana was able to still live at home, but with the assistance of care workers.

Our local organisation visited my mum and offered advice. Mum later said how invaluable this was in later stages of Nana’s illness. They told mum about the importance of not taking changes in the person to heart, and knowing that when they argue with you it is not helpful to argue back, because they might not remember the argument later. She also reminded us about how important it is to surround yourself with good support, among other things.

Two years later, my family were lucky enough to be in a position to build a house with a unit on it for my nana to live in. While it was fantastic to have her so close to us, it took her quite a few months to adjust to her new surroundings.

I became very aware of how important a routine was to her schedule. However, once she realised how close we were, she would start coming through the door at all times of the day and night, sitting down on the couch and asking for a cuppa and a chat. She would also steal shoes at the front door if we weren’t home, as she often came across without shoes on. It didn’t matter whether it was a football boot, Dad’s work boots or a jandal. We periodically found her in bed with the shoes on which always gave us a smile.

By 2019, Nana’s condition had deteriorated to the point where we, along with our carers, were unable to manage her at home. Nana moved to a rest home facility nearby. It was so sad to see that she no longer recognised us, except for brief glimpses. However, she maintained her sense of humour and mischievousness, packed into her five foot nothing frame. How I loved her stories, no matter how many times she repeated them or her songs she sang.

Sadly, in April this year, my nana passed away peacefully during the lockdown. Our family are so grateful for all the support received during her illness.

In memory of Lena Audrey Wightman – A loving wife to Len, mother to Anne and Craig, and grandmother to Jack, Jake, Imogen, Nick and myself.