Callum McMillan’s grandmother was diagnosed with dementia when he was eight years old. Like many older people with dementia, Callum’s grandmother wanted to retain her independence and denied she needed help. Concerned for her safety, Callum and his family felt powerless, unsure of who to talk to or where to find support.
“Living in a regional area meant residential care was really the only way we could ensure she stayed safe and was looked after properly,” Callum said.
“We didn’t really understand the disease; we just wanted to do the right thing by her.”
Now, 18 years later, residential care isn’t the only option for people living with dementia, which affects an estimated 425,416 people across the country. Organisations such as Dementia Australia now focus their efforts on improving general understanding of the disease to empower people to do small, everyday things that help to build dementia-friendly communities.
“Things have really changed since I was young. There is a level of awareness that did not exist back then. If my grandma had access to the type of support available today, she probably could have stayed in her own home for a lot longer,” Callum reflected.
Callum’s family has been struck with dementia again, with his father recently diagnosed. But this time, Callum is better prepared – not just due to his prior experiences with his grandmother, but also because of his job.
Callum opened Just Better Care Mornington almost five years ago to provide support services to older community members in the Mornington Peninsula locale alongside his partner, Duane. With Duane’s experience as a nurse and Callum’s personal journey with dementia, the pair are passionate about working in community care.
“It’s the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done and I’m sure Duane would say the same,” Callum said.
“I really love hearing people’s stories – some are funny, sad, inspirational, but most are just beautiful. It’s nice to know we are supporting people’s grandparents and loved ones, often providing the guidance and information my family lacked when grandma had dementia.”
Callum uses his personal and professional experience as further motivation in his role as a carer, and son.
“The effects of dementia can be intense, but the right support makes all the difference,” Callum said.
"I can see that in my dad. He is really active, playing tennis four times a week. At 78 years old, he’s fitter than me!”
To find out more about how to support a family member with dementia, go to https://www.justbettercare.com/services/aged-care