Editorial : We owe these heroes much

19:43, Feb 26 2013

Take a bow, Alzheimers Marlborough.

Among the scores of volunteers in Marlborough, your dedicated people work away quietly behind the scenes performing a service that is a lifeline to hundreds of families.

Alzheimers Marlborough celebrated its 25th anniversary at the weekend and could look back with pride on what was, 25 years ago, pioneering work.

When a group of Marlborough nurses and social workers formed the organisation in 1987, very little was known about Alzheimer's. It was often just passed off as "people getting older". But the effects on those with the disease, and their families, can be huge. What happened to Alzheimer's sufferers? How could people cope? Where could they get some relief from the sometimes heartbreaking task of caring for a loved one with the disease? Looking after someone with Alzheimer's is a fulltime job, and it can be tough on carers.

Those generous souls who saw the need stepped up to the mark and formed a group to address these issues. There was no funding from district health boards then, so fundraising was a big challenge, with constant efforts through book sales, bake sales and even donations from committee members themselves. Kaye Clark, a trained nurse who was the first paid employee as the day care supervisor, even went without wages on some occasions, but everyone involved soldiered on.

Alzheimers Marlborough, in association with organisations such as the Salvation Army, began to provide day care for patients so that carers could get a break. It also drove the establishment of specialised facilities for patients in some Marlborough rest homes. Then, after years of hard work, Alzheimers Marlborough became the only association in New Zealand to open its own purpose-built care centre, in Wither Rd.

It has been a long and challenging journey, but also a rewarding one. These days, much more is known about Alzheimer's, and it is being diagnosed earlier. There is also medication available now to help.

Thanks to the efforts of the army of volunteers behind Alzheimers Marlborough, our community is better informed and better resourced to cope. They're not the sort of people who look for praise. They take quiet satisfaction in the wonderful work they do. But we owe them a huge debt of thanks - and all the support, both practical and financial - that we can give.


The Marlborough Express