Anja Lukart

Anja’s Story

Anja is a trainer with Cire Training and is based at our Mount Evelyn campus. This story is about Anja and her family’s experience following her father’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease.

Eight years ago Anja’s father was doing strange things which prompted her to encourage a doctor’s visit to determine why his driving ability specifically had altered. He was showing a tendency to veer to the left, sometimes dangerously close to vehicles next to him. Also, he often looked blank, showing no facial emotions and he had difficulty lifting his left foot when walking.

The doctor’s visit led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder known to mainly impact movement, but can also include pain, depression and problems with memory and sleep.

Anja and her family found a neurologist for her father who recommended physiotherapy and lots of medication to assist with movement. He participated in a movement program at Wantirna Health and the family also connected with Parkinson’s Victoria to gain further insight into the disease.

Things were going along well until Anja’s father had a hospital stay in September 2015 for issues unrelated to Parkinson’s. During this stay, he suffered an acute delirium episode. This often occurs when a patient has an undetected infection. But that was not the case with Anja’s dad. One week later he was hospitalised again for a possible stroke, when again he had a delirium episode. This required major intervention by police as no-one could subdue him.

Major paranoia and a fear of people wanting to hurt him or his family became part of his everyday existence. He was assessed by specialists in the field who believed this was occurring due to his Parkinson’s medication. These were removed immediately, however his mental health was still unstable and his mobility poor. That’s when Anja’s family were told he had Lewy Body Dementia (LBD).

LBD refers to both Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. The earliest symptoms of these two diseases differ but reflect the same underlying biological changes in the brain. Over time, people with both diagnoses will develop very similar cognitive, physical, sleep, and behavioural symptoms.

Anja’s family needed to consider, collectively, what to do next. They had to consider whether they could care for their father, who was 75 years old, at home 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By this stage, Anja’s father was not capable of much movement, couldn’t make decisions for himself, couldn’t drive, shower, toilet himself, or walk unaided. And it wasn’t only their dad they had to consider but also their mum, who is 78 years old and has her own medical issues.

It’s fair to say their heads were spinning!

Due to the severity of the disease their options were limited. Anja’s parents’ home was sold and Anja’s mum went to a retirement village while dad went to an aged care facility which could cope with his specific needs of sleep disturbances, behavioural issues and lack of mobility. Thankfully both Anja’s parents were located on the same site so they could visit each other.

Anja’s parent’s lives have undergone many changes in the last 12 months, as has Anja.

“As l look over the last year I’m surprised that I’ve coped as well as I have. I believe the transitions were made easier for my parents due to the support and availability of facilities to assist families. The many chats with staff about my dad have helped me to understand him better. The caring staff who assist him to do those tasks which were difficult for family make our visits less stressful, and that means we get quality time with him. I’m not sure what would have become with my life if aged care was not an option.” Anja

Not everyone can provide this type of care, some are born to care and look after people.

“I also believe that the most important aspects in caring for the elderly are, patience and time, being genuine when dealing with hurdles, showing interest in them, caring, sharing laughs, being dignified in their approach and enjoying the person for who they are. I believe that a career in this industry is really rewarding as some elderly people may be in care for long periods of time, others may be there at the end of their life. Showing support for their family is vital.” Anja

If this is you, maybe consider a career in supporting people in their later years. Cire Training offers a Certificate III in Individual Support. This qualification can be used in many different facilities or provide in home care. Call 1300 835 235 to speak to enrolment officer at Cire Training today.

For furthering information on Parkinson’s disease visit parkinsonsvic.org.au

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