Greg: as cricket stories go...
As a bowler, he had made his way into the top grades of cricket in Sydney, playing for Mosman. Then came the day he was dropped from a side to make way for an up and coming cricketer - none other than future Australian captain, Allan Border.
Cricket is just one of his passions and another is the Essendon AFL team, although he recalls his father was a Hawthorn fan who used to take him to games at the old Glenferrie Oval.
Although he had studied political science, Greg’s real desire was to be an artist and so he worked as a driver so that he could focus on his art, submitting works for exhibition. Along with wife Joanna and daughters Davida and Ruth, they enjoyed an active life together in Sydney’s northern suburbs.
As Greg entered his mid-50s, worrying changes began to occur. He seemed to have less empathy for others, was struggling to concentrate - even on his art - and began to have difficulties managing at work. The family began to feel the strains but it was a crisis at work that marked a sudden decline in Greg’s health and capacity.
In August 2008 behaviour and performance issues led to him being sent home from work to have a break and being told to see his doctor. Joanna came home to find that Greg was suddenly ‘on holidays’.
Then began a difficult period for Greg and his family as his capacity rapidly declined, his behaviour became more challenging and his personal safety was at risk. Medical tests showed that Greg had developed younger onset Alzheimer’s disease. With no prospect of going back to work, family life began to revolve around medical appointments, carers visits and support groups.
The rapid change was a shock to Greg’s loving family and deeply frustrating for him. With his day-to-day safety and wellbeing at stake, options for care became vital. In need of high-level care, the only services available were nursing homes that were not suitable for a younger, active man.
Then the local Aged Care Assessment Team mentioned HammondCare’s Streeton Cottage, a younger onset dementia facility, part of a larger dementia facility in Horsley, near Wollongong.
In June 2010, Greg spent a month’s respite at Streeton before moving in permanently six months later. His family was relieved to find a facility catering for the special needs of younger people living with dementia. Although his ability to concentrate is reduced, he has retained his ability with numbers and so his love for sport remains important - he still places the occasional bet on the cricket or footy!
Perhaps the words of Greg’s daughter, Davida, best sum up the family’s pain of loss mixed with the emerging hopefulness of Greg’s new life: “Sometimes life can be a bit crap. A couple of years ago my father was diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s. Watching him every day has had a profound effect on both me and my family.