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SSC Newspaper : April 2012
30 Strathfield Scene april 2012 people Caring for a parent who has dementia need not be grim, writes Helena Popovic in a funny and touching book to help others in the same boat Dr Helena Popovic, 44 How long Have you liveD in StratHfielD? Since around 1972. My grandparents and parents immigrated from Serbia and spent a couple of months in Villawood before we moved to Strathfield. I went to Meriden School and then I fell in love and moved to Brisbane after finishing my degree in medicine at the University of Sydney. wHy DiD you move back? Two years ago, my mother passed away after a long battle with cancer and then dad’s dementia worsened so I had to become his full-time carer. Dad’s dementia is at a stage where it is not severe enough for him to be living in a home but he still needs full-time help for day-to-day things. How Do you keeP your fatHer’S Dementia from worSening? Because I have a history in neuropathy, I’ve done a lot of research in ways to prevent dementia. There are three aspects – physical, intellectual and emotional stimulation. Dad does line-dancing at Strathfield Town Hall every week, we go swimming at Sydney Olympic Park, he goes to the Men’s Shed, he plays sudoku with a lady every Tuesday, and he does lots of other community activities to make sure he keeps his brain functioning. wHat’S been tHe HarDeSt Part about looking after your fatHer? Finding the balance between a social life and taking care of dad. The first six months, I focused all my energy into him but became grumpy and irritable. So now, I take some time off. Dad and I go to Serbia every year where all the women fuss over him so I can take proper time out. I actually wrote most of my book over there. wHat iS tHe book about? wHy DiD you DeciDe to write it? In Search of My Father is my stories of living with a parent with dementia. I would talk to my friends about it and they found my stories hilarious and suggested I write about my experiences. It also shows the ways I use to slow the progression of dementia. It gives other people who are living with someone who suffers from dementia some advice and tips to deal with the disease and to let them know that they are not alone. wHat iS beHinD tHe title of tHe book? Somewhere inside of my father, the person is still there. His memories are still there but he might not be able to remember specific details. The title is my search to keep his memory alive and well. wHat are Some of tHe StorieS in your book? When I signed dad up to help out with delivering Meals on Wheels two years ago, he was complaining that he was too old to be doing it. He was 78 at the time. There was a lovely elderly gentleman, Eric, who signed us up. Dad and Eric became partners and eventually, dad found out Eric was in his late 90s. That really put him to shame. Sometimes when I take trips interstate, I’ll take dad. He always insists he carries our bags. His theory is that if I carry the bags, people will know he is my father. If he carries the bags, people will think he’s a rich older man with a young girlfriend! wHat’S tHe biggeSt leSSon you’ve learnt from taking care of your fatHer? Always listen to your parents’ stories. Because you never know what they ’ll unexpectedly tell you one day and you will want to remember these details. It has also taught me to cherish the relationship I have with dad. It’s strengthened our bond and has made us so much closer. Have you Put your life on HolD to care for your fatHer? I’m not married and I don’t have any kids but if I did, I wouldn’t be able to take care of dad and have this time with him. That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. In Search of My Father, by Helena Popovic, published by BookPal. The author will talk at Strathfield Library on June 9, 2pm-4pm. 840048 781742 9 ISBN 9781742840048 90000 > 840048 781742 9 ISBN 9781742840048 90000 > The long goodbye... Somewhere inside of my father, the person is still there. His memories are still there but he might not be able to remember specific details. The title is my search to keep his memory alive and well.