The Oxley Vale Attunga FC “Mushies” local reserve-grade football team, at the suggestion of a team-mate, are using their grey matter this season to raise awareness about an often misunderstood condition that affects over 196,000 Australians and has no known cure.
About six years ago, Des McKnight lost his hearing.
Initially it was put down to an unfortunate side-effect of getting older, until the hearing-aides purchased to fix the problem didn’t work.
A battery of tests and repeated trips to assorted doctors and specialists to try to discover the problem followed until the then 58 year old outgoing retired car-battery salesman from Manilla was finally diagnosed with dementia.
“ As a family it was a real shock to think that an active and social man like dad could be diagnosed with dementia,” Dan McKnight, Des’s son and a member of the Mushies local reserve grade team said.
Over the ensuing six years the illness has worsened and Des is now unable to speak and is reliant on his wife Denise for his daily care.
“The disease progressed very quickly to the stage where dad had trouble holding a conversation because of the effect on his speech and memory,” Dan said.
This round-the-clock care can be relentless and the impact of the illness on Denise and the rest of the family is very distressing.
Alzheimer’s Australia, the peak awareness raising body for dementia in Australia, states that dementia is not a normal part of ageing, nor is it simply forgetting where you parked your car or even where you live – it is a terminal illness involving the progressive loss of brain function.
It starts out by causing subtle and vague symptoms such as progressive and frequent memory loss, confusion, personality changes, apathy and the inability to perform everyday tasks.
Symptoms may eventually progress to the stage where a sufferer loses the ability to function by themselves and become reliant on family or carers for everyday tasks such as getting dressed and even eating.
Alzheimer’s Australia estimates the number of people with dementia is expected to climb to over 750,000 by 2050.
Even though the illnesses and conditions collectively classified as dementia (such as Alzheimer’s disease) are the third most common cause of death in Australia, research into the causes and
treatment of dementia is not as well funded as other higher profile diseases.
So this season Dan’s team mates in the local OVAFC reserve grade decided to show their support for everyone living with dementia or caring for someone with dementia by raising awareness of the condition.
To do this the team unanimously agreed to swap the usual Mushies club white socks for grey ones – a visual reminder to everyone that “your grey matter, matters”.
Each player agreed to make a donation by purchasing a pair of grey socks and the additional money raised is being donated to Alzheimer’s Australia.
Whilst there is no known way to conclusively prevent dementia, staying physically and socially active is believed to reduce the risk of developing the illness in later life, making the support of this cause by a local social sporting team especially relevant.
The Mushies club is right behind the grey soccer style.
Further help and information can be found by ringing The National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.