She knows how to tear down walls, hammer in nails and select the perfect palette of colours for a room. She has worked on multi-million dollar commercial design jobs and it would be fair to say that there isn’t a renovation project that Interior Designer Shaynna Blaze can’t handle.
For a woman who has mastered the art of fixing things – of finding solutions to any problem – it’s understandable how heartbreaking it has been for Shaynna to watch her mother’s mind break apart from Alzheimer’s disease…and not be able to mend it.
Shaynna became aware of the changes in her mother after the passing of her father, 16 years ago. She said that at first the family thought her mother’s strange behaviour had to do with grieving for the loss of her husband. For this reason, her disease went undiagnosed for quite some time.
“It wasn’t until I went to her place and discovered 60 packets of cream biscuits that I realised something was wrong. She’d been buying the same packet every day. It was heartbreaking,” Shaynna said.
What is dementia?
Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a person’s functioning. It is a broad term relating to a loss of rationality, memory, social skills, intellect and normal emotional reactions.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 50-70 per cent of all cases according to Alzheimer’s Australia. It occurs relatively frequently in older people, regardless of family history. For females aged 65-69 years dementia affects one person in 80 compared to one person in 60 for males.
Shaynna’s mother was diagnosed with diabetes at the same time as her Alzheimer’s was uncovered. According to Alzheimer’s Australia – diabetes is one of several conditions that increase the risk of developing some form of dementia. Other risks include:
- High cholesterol
- High homocysteine levels
- Family history
- Head injury
For many families, putting their loved ones in aged care is an extremely emotional and difficult decision. Shaynna says that she tried to support her mother at home – visiting her every day to help with her medication and meals. She even contemplated giving up her two-storey home for a one-level house so that her mother could move in, but in the end she realised that professional care was the best option.
Protecting our minds
With research indicating there’s a strong link between genetics and dementia, Shaynna admits that she is concerned about her own future and whether she might develop the disease.
Alzheimer’s Australia has a range of help sheets on their website to answer questions about caring for someone with dementia.