For five years, Jon and Diane Link have been on a journey they never wanted.
In January 2012, after a slow decline, Diane was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 67.
Nine months later, they moved into Belrose Country Club — a decision that Jon credits, among others, with helping them get the right support.
Acceptance seems to be key to how they’re successfully navigating the storm.
“It’s interesting that my wife seems to be progressing fairly slowly,” Jon said.
“Her specialist puts it down to the fact that she talks about Alzheimer’s openly.
“Whereas we have a friend who looks like she’s advancing into Alzheimer’s but she won’t have a bar of it.
“Diane talks about it so she’s not fighting two battles: the battle of secrecy and the battle of Alzheimer’s.”
Jon has simple advice for other couples faced with Alzheimer’s.
“First of all, contact Alzheimer’s Australia (AA).
“That’s the best thing we ever did—we went together, and we met our doctor through that and we met friends who were travelling the same journey.
“We get very good advice and they’re tremendous support.”
Jon said AA has taught him essential skills, such as to distract and divert—not argue—when Diane is irrational, and to be “very, very patient”.
“Just accept that these are the facts.”
He also recommends getting in home care early. Both Diane and Jon—who has prostate cancer and heart disease—have had ACAT assessments and receive packages of supports.
After being very active, learning to accept help has been difficult, he said.
“But we’ve learned to do it and we’re starting to appreciate the help we’re getting.”
Experience has also made Jon an advocate. Soon after they finished an AA course in 2013, the organisation submitted a petition to Parliament and asked Jon to speak.
Later, realising Diane’s illness meant they’d need support from their neighbours, Jon also organised an Alzheimer’s information session for the village.
He has no doubt there’s much more that could be done.
“There must be a lot of elderly people who struggle when their partner gets Alzheimer’s—particularly ladies who perhaps are left looking after the bills for the first time, or husbands who are left to cook the meals.
“There’s all these things that people don’t talk about but we could help each other, and that’s the sort of things that go on in my mind.”
Contact Alzheimer’s Australia on 1800 100 500
For more information about Belrose Country Club, click here