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Colin and Irene’s story Post Cover Image

Colin Dick, and his wife Irene (pictured), started their journey with dementia mate wareware in 2016. Irene was diagnosed by her GP following Colin’s concerns.

Based on the Kapiti Coast, the couple spent the next three years managing Irene’s symptoms at home, with the support of local community services.

“With the benefit of hindsight and a lot more knowledge around dementia now, I think it is fair to say that Irene was starting to show some minor signs of early dementia combined with phases of depression well before 2016,” says Colin.

“I can think of occasions back as far as 2004 that I could see Irene starting to suffer from some memory loss and mild depression even back then.”

As Irene’s symptoms progressed, there were a few distinct milestones which Colin distinctly recalls in a written account of their journey.

One of these was when those around her thought she could no longer safely drive – a decision which made Irene emotional. Another is when she was convinced she had lost a sentimental piece of jewellery, which was later found at their home.

While local health services were still checking on Irene regularly – including changing her medication – and she was having regular days out at the golf course with her friends, Colin could see there would eventually be a need for full-time care.

Along with his whānau, Colin started looking into residential care homes which would suit Irene within the Wellington region but couldn’t find anything suitable.

The tough decision was made for her to live at a facility in North Otago – near one of their adult children – which would offer the most suitable care for their situation.

“It is fair to say that it was the worst, and hardest day of my entire life, to leave your beloved wife of nearly 53 years married behind, and in the knowledge that we would never be back living together again as a married couple,” he says.

“I returned home to Waikanae with very mixed emotions indeed, to attend to all the work in preparation for getting our lovely home ready to take to market.”

Colin has since relocated to the South Island, so he is near Irene, and the whānau visit regularly. Sometimes Colin helps with some of the group activities (like crazy golf) and other times sits peacefully with her.

While the Covid-19 lockdowns presented a few challenges with visiting, he still spends as much time as he can with her.

He hopes sharing his story will help provide answers to some of the challenges whānau with a dementia mate wareware diagnosis may face.

“I do find it quite interesting, albeit extremely sad at times to read back over all the changes we both went through, and the family, as we all journey through these often quite challenging times,” he says.

If you or anybody you know needs any more support, reach out to your local Alzheimers or Dementia organisation.