An older woman wearing a white jacket stands next to a man in a blue suit.

“I need to keep that brain going”: Why Cathy has set up a support network for Alzheimer’s professionals

Cathy Roth was inspired to create an Alzheimer’s Professionals Support Network (PALZ) when her husband John, a former surgeon, was diagnosed with the disease in 2014.

“He literally had to resign the day he was diagnosed for ethical standards,” Mrs. Roth said.

Soon after the diagnosis, John was transferred to the Relief Therapy Group.

“He was rolling the ball down the gutter when he rang me and said, ‘Get me out of here.'”

She remembered taking her husband home that day and watching a television program about the visionary physicist Stephen Hawking.

“I thought, ‘I have to keep that brain going.'”

(From left to right) Mark Yates, PALZ founder Cathy Roth, John Roth, Rotary Club Gitte Lindgaard of Wendouree, dementia defender Anne Tudor, with PALZ supporters.(Lexie Jeuniewic)

“Mutual pollination of wisdom”

The Roths traveled to Ballarat today to celebrate the launch of Victoria’s first PALZ regional group.

PALZ offers professionals with early Alzheimer’s disease a chance to connect with each other.

Group meetings are held every two months in a meeting room that replicates the work environment.

Current business leaders are invited to the meeting. Presentations are enhanced with video and tactile elements such as flyers.

woman holding an Inuit symbol
The PALZ symbol is Inukshuk, which in Inuit culture means security, hope and friendship.(Lexie Jeuniewic)

“They are back in the workforce, mixing with people who are current in the workforce. And they are contributing to these (meetings) with their rich knowledge,” Ms Roth said.

“It helps keep their brains active to create new neural pathways and maintain dignity and self-esteem.”

Every other month, members regroup in a more informal environment to consider presenting a speaker.

“They draw on the memories they may have made at a previous meeting and reinforce the memories they made,” Ms Roth said.

On a personal level, Ms. Roth said PALZ helped “keep” her husband and give him a sense of purpose.

“He made friends with other professionals in various fields; with civil engineers, lawyers. He wouldn’t have made such friends before. It’s amazing to me.”

Dementia in the Grampians region is expected to more than triple by 2050

In Ballarat, the group will be run by Grampians Health and under the auspices of the Rotary Club of Wendouree Breakfast.

Associate Professor Mark Yates, a geriatrician, said that PALZ “fits perfectly into the range of care offered by the health service.”

“This bridges the gap in the support networks we have in Ballarat for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

Dr. Yates expected demand for groups such as PALZ to grow significantly in the coming years.

“We know that between 2017 and 2050, 340 percent of people with dementia in the Grampians will grow.

“Not because dementia is becoming more common, but because we are aging as a community.”

We recommend anyone interested in joining PALZ via Facebook or the PALZ website.

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