Port Kembla Chamber of Commerce president Ian Fulford campaigns tirelessly for his area, but he’s facing the battle of his life after being diagnosed with early onset dementia.
While he can spout off statistics and information about the suburb he loves with ease, it’s the simpler tasks that have begun to elude him in recent years.
‘‘I was the head of an organisation before the condition slowly crept up on me and it forced me to change my career path,’’ he said.
‘‘I’d started a new Masters program and, while academically I could perform at distinction level, I was struggling to find where I’d put my pens or paper.
‘‘And where I’d always been punctual, I was always late or missing appointments.’’
Mr Fulford, 50, said a great support system had helped him keep on top of things, but he has fears for his future.
‘‘I’ve been involved in community projects for a long time and I possibly won’t get to see important social reforms happen in the Illawarra,’’ he said.
‘‘On a more personal note, I have two children, aged 13 and 15, and I want to see them reach their full potential.’’
Mr Fulford is one of about 16,000 Australians aged under 65 suffering from dementia. He spoke about his experience at Wollongong Town Hall yesterday during an event to mark Dementia Awareness Week.
During the event, the IRT Research Foundation and Alzheimer’s Australia NSW launched a new guide, Living Alone with Dementia.
IRT chief executive Nieves Murray said dementia affected the lives of many of IRT’s residents, clients and their families.
‘‘There’s 1600 people diagnosed with dementia in Australia each week – that’s one every five minutes, which is a huge statistic,’’ she said.
‘‘The IRT Research Foundation is helping Alzheimer’s Australia NSW help community service providers help people with dementia live with dignity at home.
‘‘This guide provides practical support for those service providers.’’
Events are being held around the nation this week for Dementia Awareness Week, which coincides with tomorrow’s World Alzheimer’s Day.
Meanwhile, a registration day for the Illawarra Memory Walk and Jog will be held on September 30, from 2pm-6pm, at Wollongong Library.
The event – to be held on October 13 at Stuart Park, Wollongong – will raise funds for Alzheimer’s Australia NSW.