Wednesday September 27, 2017
Living with early on-set dementia By Glenise Dreaver
Wellington’s Memory Walk to raise awareness of dementia was held at Zealandia on Saturday morning. It was a bittersweet event for Lauren Bullen (53) and her daughter Rebecca (23). In 2011 Lauren, in her mid-40s and a real estate agent in Johnsonville, was diagnosed with early onset dementia. Rebecca, still a teenager and a scholarship student, had her sights set on a law degree at Nottingham University, then a top-flight career in property law in England, where her father lived. Lauren, however, had known for a while that something was very wrong. “I was panicking all the time.” She had plenty to panic about. There was a real estate downturn, her relationship with her partner broke up and she ended up with no house and no job. Rebecca, in her final year of secondary school in Auckland, didn’t see what was happening. Her grandparents and Lauren, now working at three jobs, supported her to have the fine education they felt she deserved. “I was spoiled rotten.” So it was on to England with daily phone calls home. But she still did not realise the real problem. Home for a holiday after a year, she was met at the airport by her grandparents, her aunt, and Lauren. “We went to a cafe and they told me. My mother had early onset
dementia. I had learned the family secret.” At 2am she was researching Google hoping for good news. “There was none.” She was to learn, however, that academic understanding and living it were very different. She was not to do that for two years, as her family ordered her back to finish her degree. “This had totally mucked up my life. I didn’t want it to muck up Beccy’s too,” says Lauren. At Rebecca’s graduation, she honoured her mother through the family gift of a flower and tapa cloth, mementoes of their Samoan heritage. There would be no career in England with a home and family, or indulging her passions for ballroom dancing and choral singing. “Welcome to the real world,” she says. There is no regret visible. “Mum would have done this in a heartbeat for me.” With no job and no partner, she returned and rented a flat, the two living on benefits. Rebecca has a part–time administrative job with a wonderful firm. “If we’ve got an appointment, or had a bad night it’s always ‘Don’t worry. Come in when you can’.” That was huge during the seven weeks Lauren spent in hospital with an ankle injury. She couldn’t walk and the panic of being in a strange environment meant Rebecca had to stay. The two women are amazed at how kind people in this community
inbrief news Free technical advice The topic for the free monthly drop in for the Churton Park Community Centre on October 4 will be technical advice. The session, to be held from 12-2pm, will offer quick fixes with personal laptops, tablets and phones from volunteer expert Marc Nicholson.
Be in to WIN one of 2 Double Passes to National Shakespeare Schools Production 2017
Lauren and Rebecca Bullen try to make a weekly coffee a regular treat. PHOTO: Glenise Dreaver
are. If Lauren gets confused at the supermarket, the staff know her and sit her down with a cup of tea. They struggled to get an optometrist because she can’t read letters or numbers, until a “lovely man” at Porirua Specsavers solved the problem in seconds. You can still see the fun-loving Lauren behind the veil, though Rebecca grieves she
has forgotten the school camp fun and games she was famous for. Music is big in her life, especially the CD’s with O Sole Mio, and also Englebert Humperdinck, Rod Stewart and Tom Jones. She remembers Tom vividly, having been to one of his concerts. “He kissed me!” Some things are hard to forget.
Saturday 7 October, 7.30pm, Te Aro Room, Mac’s Function Centre TO ENTER: email your name and address to:
firstname.lastname@example.org *Entries close 2nd October 2017
Independent Herald 27-09-17