The first sign of Parkinson's Disease came when Doug Craig noticed his hand shaking as he was driving one day.
Together with wife, Anne, he immediately went to the doctor and soon received the diagnosis.
"It came as a shock. It was the last thing I expected," Doug said.
Then the dementia started.
Anne says the couple, who live in Goulburn, have good and bad days but their overriding message is that people living with Parkinson's dementia can lead happy, full and healthy lives at home.
"We're lucky. We have a lot of support from our five children so I manage to get a golf game in and Doug can have a day out," Anne said.
"Our neighbours are also great."
A community nurse assists with showering and the couple attend Goulburn's Parkinson's Support and Dementia Support group meetings. Their niece, Lauren Hogan is also Goulburn's Parkinson's support nurse.
While they don't require additional help, they're promoting a service that will support others not so fortunate.
HammondCare is running a series of "innovative" three-day/two-night retreat programs, developed by Dementia Support Australia (DSA), in 2024 at its Candlebark Overnight Respite Cottage, Quiberon Way, Goulburn. It is designed to support both carers and their loved ones who are dealing with the implications of dementia.
The first retreat will be held on February 13 to 15, another is planned for June 11 to 13, followed by October 15 to 17. The retreats, open to both carers and their loved ones living in the Southern Tablelands and Southern Highlands, are federally funded so there is no cost to participants. The retreats include accommodation for a couple and fresh cooked meals.
"Everyone wants to continue living at home," organiser, Toni Anderson said.
"It's our place of comfort, familiarity and security. That doesn't change with a diagnosis of dementia - in fact, home is even more important."
"Our Staying at Home program empowers people living with dementia and their carers to continue living together at home for as long as possible."
Ms Anderson says there will be plenty of opportunity for "debriefing and sharing" about the challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia and practical and helpful information about available support services will be provided.
Anne and Doug said they were looking forward to the February retreat.
"I was delighted to learn that this kind of support is out there for couples like us," Anne said.
"Programs like this are a great way to help carers improve their quality of life."
The couple met at Taralga where both grew up and have been married for 57 years. They ran a grazing property at Yalbraith, north of Taralga, before moving to Kildare at Myrtleville. They stayed 27 years on the grazing and cropping property but took a break when the couple managed a Bawley Point caravan park for eight years.
Doug worked well into his seventies, doing ground and facility maintenance at Crookwell/Taralga Aged Care (now Uniting Taralga).
In more recent years they moved to Goulburn.
Anne said she occasionally needed "down time" but Doug was able to lead a full life, with a little help. A neighbour helps him with stretching exercises while he regularly hops on the exercise bike. Family also take him on trips to Taralga and elsewhere and he's an avid news reader.
"It only takes a phone call and the family is there and we really appreciate that," Anne said.
"Others aren't so lucky and for them, it's good to have a service like Hammond Care's."
At the retreats, carers will be advised on how to obtain 24/7 support from DSA's staff and other community services and how to care for their own well-being.
Participants will also learn how to access and prepare for respite services, including Candlebark Overnight Respite Cottage.
The cottage opened last year and was the first of its kind in the region. It is described as a home away-from-home available for eligible people aged 65 years and over so their carers can take time out knowing their loved ones will receive care
For more information about the Staying At Home events and how to register your interest, go to https://www.hammond.com.au/care/home-care/staying-at-home
This article first appeared in the Goulburn Post.