It’s 8.30am and Paula George greets her 94-year-old father Alan with a smile and military salute.
On this day, Alan remembers his daughter’s name, but it’s not always the case despite the close bond the two share.
“He has good days and bad days,” Paula admits. “He was very intelligent, which makes this so hard.”
Alan sits comfortably in his chair, stacking wooden blocks at Glenbrook Residential Aged Care at Nambour. He is one of about a dozen people living in the facility with a complex dementia diagnosis.
The veteran served in World War II in Darwin, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands before he became a senior diplomat based in Europe with his wife Cathe and five children.
Now, the grandfather-of-four has vascular dementia, an incurable and progressive disease affecting his memory, reasoning and judgement, which he has lived with for 10 years.
“I am sharing our story to support Wishlist’s goal of raising $30,000 for a specially designed dementia-friendly outdoor area at Nambour Hospital and also a sensory garden here at Glenbrook.
“Dad was always gardening. He lived through the Depression and grew fruit trees to provide for the family.
“This proposed project is so important, it’s so enriching,’’ Paula says.
“My grandmother had Alzheimer’s Disease so I witnessed her staying with different relatives and everyone caring for her.
“I watched her struggle. There came a time with my dad that my mother reluctantly let people come into their home to help.
“He stopped recognising mum and it broke her heart. She lost her partner, lost her soul mate.”
They were married for 63 years, and Paula says the couple were separated only by illness.
“Mum passed away six months ago, so I come in with my brother and greet dad when he’s having breakfast and sometimes we walk through the garden.
“He is profoundly deaf due to concussion grenades in the war, but he still has understanding and insight.
“You grab those moments like a little gem. Unfortunately, you have nowhere to hide with this disease.”
This Sunday, Wishlist will hold its first Teddy Bears’ Picnic to raise funds for the outdoor area to enhance patient care at Nambour Hospital’s Acute Restorative Care Unit.
The team provides care for frail older patients with cognitive issues and is rallying the community to support the Just Better Care-sponsored event at Cotton Tree park.
The innovative project will include a sensory garden, mini workshop and other stimulating therapeutic tools in an environment that will be a first on the Sunshine Coast for dementia patients.
The Teddy Bears’ Picnic is at Cotton Tree park on October 29 from 9am. The cost is $10, which includes food, drinks and activities voucher. Visit wishlist.org.au for tickets.