Holdsworth volunteer Miya is a passionate advocate for those living with Dementia in the community. Miya first connected with Holdsworth while supporting her father through Dementia - with Holdsworth fondly referred to as his ‘club’. She supports Dementia Australia and the Woollahra Dementia Alliance to help businesses become Dementia-friendly, a topic close to heart after the many small things local businesses did to create a welcoming space for her father, including his favourite cafe creating a special ‘Bob’s Menu’.
Miya’s father Bob was a charmer who played tennis well into his 80s. He was American born and spent over 50 years in Japan before moving to Australia. And with the help of Holdsworth, Dementia Australia and some thoughtful local businesses, Miya was able to give her dad a beautiful end of life experience and cherish the time they had together.
Although Bob left this world almost three years ago, Miya remains passionate about supporting those living with Dementia, and seniors in the community: “My father passed but I don’t see a reason to stop helping. It could happen to anybody. We’re all going to get old and it’s not somebody else’s problem,” she says.
Miya volunteers with Dementia Australia through advisory projects and on their peer leaders program. Through this program she shares her experiences caring for her father to support others during their journeys – from labelling his clothing drawers to getting a glass-fronted refrigerator so he would see food and be reminded to eat, as well as many other simple measures that helped him live independently for as long as possible.
Holdsworth played an important role in Bob’s independence, providing transport to and from Holdsworth Community Centre for regular programs, and Miya is eternally grateful for their support.
“Holdsworth has been so amazing with my father, the people are amazing – caring and patient and fun. He used to get collected and go there three times a week. I told them how much of a role they played in his life, and I’d love to support them in any way.”
Recently Miya has started volunteering through Holdsworth to support the Woollahra Dementia Alliance (WDA) – an organisation focused on improving accessibility, inclusiveness and connectedness. At the heart of the WDA’s action plan is creating a dementia-friendly community to support local people live quality lives – an absolutely vital endeavour given the nearly 450,000 Australians living with dementia and the nearly 1.6 million people involved in their care*.
“Communities need to embrace it, and while businesses are already busy and must operate to be profitable, taking just small measures like in my father’s experience, can make a big difference,” Miya says.
Bob was a regular at a couple of local cafes, and as his Dementia progressed, Miya became concerned about him carrying cash, or being confused by digital payment. She spoke to the cafes, and they worked out a system where Bob would simply sign the receipt and Miya would fix up the bill at the end of the month. With the cafe’s support, Miya also streamlined their menu to create ‘Bob’s menu’ – a short list on laminated paper so Bob could choose from his favourite items, far less overwhelming for him to read than the full offer.
These small acts of kindness made a big impact on Miya, because she wanted to make sure her father adapted and enjoyed a happy life in Sydney, just as he’d given to her in her childhood.
Miya’s wondrous view on her father’s last few years and her passion to give back wasn’t always easy to muster. As her father began to decline, a conversation with a friend sparked the realisation she was grieving. Miya attributes her abililty to support and communicate with her dad in the way he needed, while at the same time supporting her own mental health, to a grief counsellor.
“In the beginning I used to say I lost my dad. But you never lose your parent. He was my caring dad, still looking out for me until the very end. Even if you can only glimpse a miniscule part of who they were, they’re still present.”
If you’d like to find out how to support those living with Dementia in the community just like Miya, or if you’re a carer who would love to be connected to resources and support, reach out to Holdsworth.
Get in touch to find out more about our programs support people living with dementia