Couple Faces Dementia Together

on the Friday, September 7, 2018

You’d be hard pressed to find a more resilient couple than Gay and Ken Fleming.  Married for 46 years, the pair has endured more than their fair share of heartache.

Losing both their adults sons just two years apart left them devastated, and then shortly after, Ken was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at just 65.

“It was really stressful for us because at that time we’d lost our boys…We really weren’t in a good place,” Gay said.

Ken said he found the diagnosis and having to give up driving “hard to cope with”.

September is Dementia Awareness Month, aimed to increase the understanding of what dementia is, what it is like to live with, and how we can better support those affected by it.

A vital support for the Mooroopna couple has been Kialla House in Shepparton. Run by non-profit organisation Villa Maria Catholic Homes, the program offers day and overnight respite for carers who need a break. It also gives their loved ones the opportunity to socialise, go on community outings, and pursue their own hobbies.

Colouring in is a passion Ken regularly pursues at Kialla, along with outings to the RSL for Senior Melodies.

“Coming to Kialla House gives me something to look forward to each week. I have Alzheimer’s, but I remember everything I do at Kialla House.”

For Gay, Ken’s time at Kialla gives her a chance to exercise, catch up with friends and continue her volunteer work.

“Whenever we need to talk to someone there’s always someone available for us,” she said.
Despite their adversity, the couple remains positive and love to share some laughs.

“I asked Gay ‘what if I forgot your name?’ And she said she wouldn’t mind that!” Ken said.

“One of the reasons we’ve been married for so long is I think because us men early in the piece think we know everything but as the years go by I’ve realised the woman is mostly always right.

“We’ve got good communication and we always help each other with everything.”

If you would like more information on Kialla House, please call 1300 971 720.

Find out more about Villa Maria Catholic Homes.

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