HammondCare volunteers helping residents with dementia

Mateship: HammondCare volunteer Terry Smith and resident Peter Hayes, who has young onset dementia, enjoy their weekly visits to Albion Park's Men's Shed where Mr Hayes can enjoy his craft. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Mateship: HammondCare volunteer Terry Smith and resident Peter Hayes, who has young onset dementia, enjoy their weekly visits to Albion Park's Men's Shed where Mr Hayes can enjoy his craft. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Younger onset dementia may be dimming Peter Hayes’ memories but it can’t extinguish his passion for wood carving.

The award-winning craftsman, who exhibited his pieces at The Rocks in Sydney for many years, is continuing to enjoy his craft thanks to Albion Park’s Men’s Shed and a volunteer program run by HammondCare.

Mr Hayes, 60, is a resident at HammondCare Horsley – one of the few respite services across the state specifically for younger people with dementia.

More than 23,900 Australians are estimated to have a diagnosis of dementia under the age of 65, and Mr Hayes daughter Sarah Post said it was important for them to live alongside others of a similar age.

Even more important was having programs that enabled those, like her father, to continue doing the things that they loved.

‘’Dad is a cabinet maker by trade – his passion has always been carving and sculpting timber and he would take commissions and exhibit his pieces,’’ Ms Post said.

‘’At home he had a workshop and he would spend all day there doing what he loved – he lived and breathed it. So when he went into care it was a priority for us to make sure he could still do that.’’

Enter Terry Smith – one of some 50 voulnteers at HammondCare Horsley – who takes Mr Hayes to the men’s shed each week. And the benefits flow both ways.

I wouldn't want him to live in an aged care facility and not have an outlet to do what he loves.

Sarah Post

‘’Pete and I hit it off straight away – we have the same twisted sense of humour and share a good mateship,’’ Mr Smith said. 

‘’He was a renowned wood carver and you’ve just got to see his face when he gets to the shed – the patience he has to sit there for two to three hours carving and rubbing the wood, he loves it. It’s great therapy for him.’’

HammondCare Horsley volunteer leader Lisa Beckett said volunteers like Mr Smith played a vital role.

‘’The roles volunteers do are very different to what a care worker does – they do those roles staff don’t have time to do,’’ she said. ‘’They’re the life blood of our organisation.’’

Ron Dryburgh, of the men’s shed, said Peter was one of more than 60 members – aged from 16 to 92.

‘’We have men from all walks of life who come along for companionship and to learn new skills,’’ he said. ‘’Or those like Peter, who’ve got the skills and want to keep doing what they love.’’