Dementia is the second leading cause of deaths in Australia (ABS, 2016). In a report prepared for Alzheimer’s Australia, it was projected that over 6.4 million Australia people would be diagnosed with dementia over the next 40 years.
The cost projected alongside this trend is estimated to be more than $1 trillion (Economic cost of dementia in Australia 2016-2056). What will be the emotional cost for those diagnosed, as well as their families?
Callum McMillan was eight years old when his grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. He was young, but he understood what was happening. Feeling powerless to help, it was a difficult time for Callum, his mother, and his grandmother.
“My mum and the rest of her family had a tough time convincing grandma she couldn’t take care of herself anymore. I was only young and couldn’t do anything to change the situation. If she had access to an in-home care service she probably could have stayed in her home for a lot longer,” Callum said.
“This was more than 15 years ago so there wasn’t the same level of community support, particularly in regional areas. Lucky for other families, times have changed.”
Callum’s family has been touched by dementia again, with his dad recently diagnosed. This time around, Callum feels more equipped to lend a helping hand – not due to age, but rather his job.
About four and a half years ago, Callum started the Melbourne Mornington franchise of in-home care provider, Just Better Care. With a background originally in music and arts, Callum joined the community care industry after meeting his partner Duane who was working as a nurse.
Listening to Duane talking about his experience in the industry, while knowing firsthand how it felt for his own family to support an older family member, he knew he was meant for a career in community care. Together, they manage the business, supporting older people and people with a disability along the Mornington Peninsula.
“It’s the most fulfilling work that I’ve ever done and I’m sure Duane would say the same,” Callum said.
“When I first started, I did a lot of office-based work. But once you get out into the field and see firsthand the situation some of these people are living with, it can be tough to face at first. But honestly, more than anything, it makes you want to help.
“Hearing their stories – some are funny, sad, inspirational, but most are just beautiful – I think that’s what drives Duane and I. It’s nice to know we are supporting other people’s grandparents and loved ones – whether it’s through dementia support, meal preparation, or just someone to chat to over a cuppa. It’s nice to feel like we’re making a difference.”