Colin's Story

Colin's story

My grandmother had the most beautiful smile. Her smile never left her face even though I could see her struggle with basic situations, like an understanding of where exactly she was. As a child you realise this isn't normal, and I would hold her hand like I felt I had to protect her.

Grandma’s dementia had a significant impact on our family. As a child I was very much protected from the conversations though we knew conversations about Grandma were happening. Myself, my brother Eric and sister Kathleen didn’t miss a beat- we would listen in as best we could.

The family was divided in what care should be provided. No one really knew what to do. Although everyone wanted what was best for Grandma. Our family tried to keep Grandma’s dementia private – it was the 1980s and there was a duality of keeping the situation private and trying to get a cure. But when you know someone with dementia you know they will display themselves unnaturally in a natural situation so I felt the adults were on high alert - to protect Grandma, and to protect her dignity. 

Without a doubt though I believe her experience with dementia could have been different if it was talked about more freely. I think as a community we need to have awareness and respect to look beyond our own resources. With unity there will always be strength. Share the knowledge, share the experience.

I’d also like to encourage New Zealanders to be a hero to the person with dementia. Know your limits and know what you're capable of and do not try to go beyond that. Get help. Ask questions. Sharing literally is caring and the right people in life will step forward to help you if they know you need it.

Treat the person with dementia with the same love and courage you would want to be treated with in the same situation. Showing love and protection to a person with dementia should never be seen as a burden.

- Colin Mathura-Jeffree