..... Sue Pieters-Hawke is a carer's advocate, recently appointed chairwoman of the National Advisory Committee on Dementia for the Minister for Ageing, and is primary carer to her mother Hazel, who has Alzheimer's disease. Pieters-Hawke wrote of the illness, diagnosed in 2001, and her mother's life in the best-selling book Hazel's Journey.
She believes carers benefit from "a sense of humour [which] nearly always helps. It's black humour, self-deprecatory, sense of humour being able to vent. It lifts endorphins and reduces stress."
There was a recent Australian study conducted that showed "carers as a cohort have the lowest well-being and are at high risk of disease and depression". To combat this "people who are carers need things that stand outside it; faith, their own identity and activities. You can, for example, lose yourself in young motherhood but hopefully there's the compensatory joy of a baby but if you have been caring for someone in decline then it's very natural and easy to be disheartened by that."
So what can carers do to develop separate interests? "Time out, time out, time out … is really important. Take it physically, and generate it mentally and emotionally. Friends, interests and faith are important." Pieters-Hawke's interests include cooking, listening to music and gardening ("watching things grow and die and flower. I stand at the window and stare at it and enjoy it") but faith "of one kind or another" has been a constant in her life.
It has given her meaning and sustenance and "the capacity to live well with uncertainty," she says, before quoting Helen Keller. "'Human beings seek safety and certainty, and there is no such thing.' People try and get it by placing values on material goods and hedonism. It doesn't just fall out of the sky." Instead Buddhism has helped her navigate through much of life's uncertainty......
Sydney Morning Herald, 14th June 2008
Read the full text of the Herald article here.
Minister for Ageing's Press Release announcing her Advisroy Board on Dementia, co-chaired by Sue Pieters-Hawke and Sall-Anne Atkinson.
Click here to read Ashley Hall's report (ABC News) of his interview with Sue Pieters-Hawke on her appointment to the Minister's Advisory Group.