Why we need PALZ
“It seems that when you have cancer you are a brave battler against the disease, but when you have Alzheimer’s you are an old fart. That’s how people see you. It makes you feel quite alone.”
These are the words of the late, great, wise and perpetually and quietly enraged author, Sir Terry Pratchett.
Like so many others, Pratchett knew what it was to see and be seen through the lens of Alzheimer’s. Like very few he had a gift for pointing out life’s everyday tragedies by making us laugh.
His sentiments would be familiar to many people living with Alzheimer’s and it was that sense of loneliness that drove Cathy Roth OAM to create and pilot Professionals with Alzheimers, or PALZ for short, here in Geelong.
Cathy’s surgeon husband, Dr John Roth, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year and it was seeing the impacts of the disease on other professionals that inspired Cathy’s push to launch PALZ to provide suitably stimulating support.
“Professionals such as doctors, teachers, consultant, lawyers, pharmacists, accountants, farmers and business owners suffer not just from the disease when diagnosed, but from the deprivation of professional acknowledgement and professional stimulation in an environment of ongoing development which has been part of their daily lives for decades,” Mrs Roth said.
The program brings corporate speakers to interactive bi-monthly meetings, providing much-needed stimulation for early-stage Alzheimer’s suffers.
“Faces reflect feelings of self-worth when attendees are spoken to as peers by the speakers,” Mrs Roth said.
The Victorian launch, supported by PALZ patron Associate Professor Michael Woodward, Head of Aged Care Research and the Memory Clinic at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital, is helping to raise awareness of the program ahead of a planned national launch in Canberra in mid-2018. The program has also attracted interest in the UK.
“It doesn’t need strong infrastructure, it just needs someone who cares and it’s up and running,” Mrs Roth said. “If it works here, it’s going to work everywhere because the needs are the same.”