Dementia Awareness Month | A personal story

William Ryan was a wardsman at the Port Macquarie Hospital for many years.  He is pictured here with his daughter Rebecca Tenley who supported him throughout his two-year battle with the disease.
William Ryan was a wardsman at the Port Macquarie Hospital for many years. He is pictured here with his daughter Rebecca Tenley who supported him throughout his two-year battle with the disease.

Port Macquarie’s Rebecca Tenley watched as her father William Ryan succumbed to dementia over a two year period.

William was a wardsman at the Port Macquarie Hospital for many years and at the age of 59 he was told he had frontal lobe dementia and because he was so young it would be rapid.

“He only lasted two years before he passed away.  

“He lost all senses really quickly, he wore the same clothes every day and he ate the same food every day, and he didn't talk at all or move much in the two years.”

Rebecca was William’s only child.

“Dementia is a horrible thing to watch someone go through,” she said.

The Mid North Coast has some of the highest rates of dementia in the state.

“He forgot who I was until his last moments and he tried to say something but it came out as baby talk and wasn't understood.”

Rebecca Tenley

According to statistics commissioned by Alzheimer’s Australia, the Myall Lakes Electorate has the highest rate, with the Port Macquarie electorate coming in at number three (out of the 93 electorates across NSW).

At first nobody knew anything was wrong with her father, but as Rebecca explained, the situation soon worsened.

“He was buying large amounts of the same stuff daily and walking away without talking to anyone, it was like ground hog day – every day was a repeat of the last day. Even his food had to be the same.”

She says the hardest thing for her during the ordeal was that he forgot who she was.

“He forgot who I was until his last moments and he tried to say something but it came out as baby talk and wasn't understood.”

Rebecca’s husband was a ‘god send’ at the time of her father’s illness.

“Without his ongoing support from the start I would not have been able to hold it all together, he stepped down at work because we had two small children under three of our own. He was a god send through it all.”