Eight years ago at the age of 52, Takaya’s mother Rhonda was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, shortly after caring for her own mother who died of the disease. In Australia 7 in 10 people are affected in some way by the disease and over 400,000 suffer from it.
What made you decide to become an Alzheimer’s Australia ambassador?
I had wanted to do it for a while as the disease hit close to home when my mother was diagnosed 8 years ago. Alzheimer’s Australia has given my family a lot of support and for years I was living at home taking care of my mum each day. I wanted to take something positive from that situation so I found that sharing my experiences and becoming an ambassador to help raise awareness and join the community in a public way was the best way to do so.
How did getting diagnosed with the disease change your mother’s life?
Most people think it’s just memory loss, that’s what its been reduced to in films but its so much more than that. It’s not the reality of it. Her early symptoms were things like the inability to learn new things, general confusion over daily tasks and short-term memory loss, which leads to agitation. For me it’s always been hard to reconcile whether mum is still in there and trying to get out or if she is inline with where her mind is at. You just don’t know but you can’t dwell and have to do your best to give her the best life you can.
How did her situation affect you?
When mum got diagnosed I moved back in to help renovate their house and look after her. I was doing things for my mum when she was at an age where you would have never considered having to look after your parent. It’s like they go back to a toddler type state. Having to do that for your parent is quite confronting to deal with. I would go to auditions in between caring for her, and every time I left the house it was in the back of my mind that I had left her alone even though I knew she would never want me to hold myself back for her sake.
Takaya and his mother Rhonda Honda, 2017 (@takayah INSTAGRAM)
What do Alzheimer’s Australia do for the cause?
They have a research element where they fund a lot of studies and new technology. At the moment they are doing a lot of work in virtual reality and creating smartphone apps, which has lead to them winning awards. They also offer direct support to families through free counselling and push for government funding as well as funding campaigns to raise awareness.
Dementia Awareness Month continues nationwide through September, under the theme: You are not alone.
For more information visit fightdementia.org.au