Move for Dementia is back this September to help raise vital funds for people and whānau living with dementia mate wareware in Aotearoa New Zealand.
This is one initiative Alzheimers NZ has underway to mark World Alzheimers Month 2023.
Theresa Reddish and her whānau are encouraging people to get involved this year, after their team fundraiser was a catalyst to connect with different people in their lives.
The Forget-me-nots (comprised of Theresa and her sisters) raised more than $6000 for the cause.
Their mum, Jane, was diagnosed with dementia mate wareware in early 2020, and they have other family members who have lived with the condition.
The team made a pledge to each move their bodies every day in September for a minimum of 30 minutes. They also put out an open invitation for anyone in their wider network to join them for a walk around Aotea Lagoon, Porirua. They were heartened by the response from friends, family and past colleagues.
While the whānau were already starting to build a support system for their parents, the event was an opportunity for others to talk about what was happening and how they might be able to help.
Theresa says one of the biggest challenges has been sharing the diagnosis and supporting people through their feelings – often shock and disbelief.
“It was an opportunity for people to talk and remove that stigma around a dementia diagnosis. In addition we raised a decent amount of money for a wonderful organisation that we have gratefully utilised on this journey.
“As much as it was about the moving, it was about us validating that it’s ok to talk about it. This is where we are, and it’s a challenge, but we don’t want to hold onto it ourselves, we actually really need a village. People responded so well to that. It allowed them to be part of our journey with us and we are so grateful for that.”
Theresa’s parents have always been social, so a nice surprise from the event has been a regular group of friends from when Jane was a teacher coming back together.
The women, in addition to amazing family members, now head to their house each week to take turns spending time with Jane so her dad, Paul, can take some time for himself.
Having time for yourself is an essential element of support for any care partner, and ‘worth its weight in gold’.
“I know some people don’t know how to ask you about it and don’t know how to bring it up in conversation because they don’t want to upset you…” says Theresa.
“But we wanted to get off the backfoot and be like ‘well, we’re inviting you along and if you want to be there you are more than welcome. This is the journey at the moment, come and celebrate with mum while she’s here. Because even though her brain is changing, she is still Jane and she gets so much joy from spending time with people.”
Move for Dementia has been a great opportunity for the whānau to help raise awareness of dementia mate wareware and remove the stigma that is often associated.
“Despite the fact there is no cure, the best thing we can do is live the most healthy lifestyle possible in terms of supporting our brain function, our mobility, our diet and social interaction,” says Theresa.
“It’s one thing to know those messages but it’s another thing to put them into practice – so we thought ‘here’s a great opportunity to bring to attention the movement side for prevention of cognitive brain diseases’.
“And the other goal was to really rip the plaster off. If anyone hadn’t been told about the diagnosis we just wanted to make it known ‘this is what is happening with Mum, and if you want to see her or get involved then this is the time.”
Theresa says in a time where people can get disconnected in their senior years, it’s been a real coming together again.
She says Move for Dementia is a positive way to draw a light on something that is hard to go through and encourages people to sign up for the challenge.
“If you’re thinking about it, only good things can come from it.”
Funds raised through Move for Dementia are distributed around Aotearoa New Zealand to support frontline Alzheimers and dementia mate wareware services.
Sign up today and get moving this September on the Move for Dementia website.
CAPTION: The Forget-me-nots and their supporters at their 2022 fundraiser at Aotea Lagoon