AS her mother’s health gradually deteriorated, Sue Pieters-Hawke says it was her role to support her quality of life and ensure she had dignity and respect.
It’s been about five months since the death of Hazel Hawke, who died aged 83 from Alzheimer’s disease complications.
Ms Pieters-Hawke said it was difficult to explain why the public warmed so strongly to the ex-wife of former prime minister Bob Hawke.
“People spotted in mum a very genuine and authentic person,” she said.
“There was no show to Hazel. What you saw was what you got.
“People felt her genuine warmth and affection. And people appreciate that.”
Ms Pieters-Hawke will be in Warrnambool on Tuesday to speak of her dementia care experience.
She said there continued to be a lot of fear and ignorance in the community around dementia.
“I’m not saying that is anyone’s fault,” she said. “When I came to the subject I shared the ignorance and fear and misconceptions.
“One of the most awful preconceived and prejudiced ones is that they’re not all there.
“We tend to be very dismissive of the humanity. The person is changing, they have a disease causing brain damage. They are still fully experiencing their whole world.”
Ms Pieters-Hawke said as a carer she did her best to put herself in her mother’s shoes.
“My job was to support her quality of life and help her enjoy her life,” she said.
“Their experience of the world is changing and that’s frightening and frustrating. Our job is to reassure and support.”
Hazel Hawke was 72 when she was diagnosed and Ms Pieters-Hawke said looking back, there were small signs of symptoms.
According to the Dementia Australia website, dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain.
It is not one disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s social or working life.
Ms Pieters-Hawke said most carers would experience the changing dynamics in the relationship with the person they are caring for.
“Someone who’s never been dependent on anyone becomes dependent on you for everything,” she said.
“Whilst I was grieving in a sense the loss of the wise, wisdom mother role, I didn’t mind it too much.
“I saw it as part of the changing life cycle. She cared for me as a baby.
“People with dementia are still here and with us and they deserve respect and dignity.”
Ms Pieters-Hawke urged people to call the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 for support.
“It’s really good for people struggling with this issue and need to speak to someone,” she said.
“It’s a tough road to travel on your own.”
Ms Pieters-Hawkes visit to Warrnambool is hosted by Alzheimers Australia and will be at Proudfoots Boathouse tomorrow from 1.30pm. She will also be signing copies of her book Hazel: My Mother’s Story.
For bookings phone 5561 9321.