Michele Toussaint’s mum, Alix, is 92 years old. She spends her days happily folding and putting away clothes, doing the dishes, enjoying some craft or gardening and listening to music.
The only difference is that Alix has dementia, and she is doing all of this while living in the Memory Support Unit at St Catherine’s Aged Care Residence in Balwyn.
Alix has been living at St Catherine’s in 2014, however it was recently suggested that she move into the new dedicated Memory Support Unit, as she was starting to need more help and support.
“She loves having company,” says Michele, one of Alix’s 12 children. “She loves the activity programs, and there aren’t as many people so it’s a bit more supportive, and home-like. We are very glad we did it.
“The activities are great, there is always a lot on, but she also likes doing the things she used to do at home. It’s a really nice environment.
“Mum had 12 children, seven boys and five girls. She has always been busy, she was a stay-at-home mum, and so she was very busy looking after all of us kids. So doing things like this, it helps her.”
Alix’s dementia was diagnosed before she moved to St Catherine’s. When her husband died in 2011, it got harder to live at home, and so in 2013, she made the move.
Michele says her mother’s dementia is progressively becoming worse, and at times, doesn’t remember people.
“But she does have 24 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, so it’s understandable! We have also noticed that she is asking the same questions all the time, and she is speaking French more and more, even to the staff.”
Michele’s family is from Mauritius, a French-speaking country. Regularly, Michele will take her mum home and cook a traditional Mauritian lunch.
“We cook together, and I try to get mum involved in preparing the food, just for the memories.
“But she knows this is her home. Usually she is ready to come back after a couple of hours. So she has adjusted well, and settled in nicely.
“It is a really nice place, the atmosphere, and the kitchen especially, is lovely. The garden is great to go and walk around, they can go in and out when they like. The support of the staff is also fantastic.
“She always has so much to do during the day, and then in the evening she is happy to be in her room, because she gets tired. But she definitely tries to get involved as much as she can.
“It really is about doing things like a community. I like that for her.”