My Magical Mystery Tour

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In typical Partington style today I am keeping things ‘different’ and sharing a side of me that has not yet been discussed , but surprise, surprise is still dementia related:). I felt it was important for people to understand how my dementia advocacy came about and how my attitude towards providing positive dementia care was formed. It is a bizarre story, but the last 12 months have been insightful, inspirational and full of magical moments. This story is essentially a story of gratitude and respect for my mentor and good friend Dr Faizal Ibrahim.

For those of you who know Faizal will understand what I mean when I say this man is unpredictable and outrageously funny. But he also commands your attention when in his presence, and no-one owns a room like Faizal does. He is also one of the most compassionate people I have ever met with a massive heart who runs on adrenaline and a never ending supply of passion, energy and drive. How I met Faizal is a story in itself and testament of how by doing something in the ‘heat of the moment’ you can change your destiny and your attitude towards life.

It was just over a year ago I was sitting by myself in the middle of the Glenelg football Clubrooms listening & learning from speakers presenting at the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Awareness Forum. I had previously had over a year or so of really difficult moments with Dad’s behaviours in the hospital and at home and I was basically ‘cooked’, but did not realise it until this day. It was the first time I had actually switched off my ‘caring for Dad’ mode and actually went into study & self reflection mode. As I sat there hearing personal dementia stories of others I realised I was not alone and was inspired by the speakers and in particular the Glover family from Port Lincoln. I was drawn to their story and loved the way their family rallied around Robin (the husband/father) who has dementia. They were in the early stages of their journey but had so many similarities to how they approached dementia. I spoke with wife Valda and daughter Deborah in the break and compared notes and thanked them for sharing their story.

Just after lunch it was announced that the keynote speaker Professor Richard Fleming from Tasmania was not able to attend the event and had been replaced by Faizal who was given only a few hours notice to ‘save the day’. To say that Faizal made an impact on the room was an understatement. He might only be small in stature, but he is larger than life and totally engaged the audience within seconds in his trademark mustard suit and his favourite story about Kentucky Fried Chicken. What stood out for me was he was the first doctor I had ever heard talk about ‘dignity’ for people in care and as he is a Geriatrician and specializes in people with dementia he certainly had my attention. I had personally experienced some very confronting and mind blowing events in hospital with dad at this point and here was Faizal saying “enough is enough….we need to look after ALL people in hospitals and treat them with dignity and respect’. It was so refreshing to hear this from a doctor and all of a sudden I started bawling like a baby. I cried for the next 45 minutes uncontrollably as I realized where I was at in our journey and what we had already encountered. I was so impressed that a medical professional was looking after people in such a caring and unique manner and prepared to make a stand, and was calling for dementia champions.

After Faizal finished his presentation I decided I am not leaving this room until I meet him and give him my business card. He was in a real hurry to get back to patients, but I managed to slip him my card and tell him…”if you need help, I am your man!” .This moment sparked a 12 month frenzy of dementia advocacy that has changed my life. Faizal said he would contact me tomorrow as he had a mission for me. He did this and convinced me to write an article for the Hospital Research Foundation to help them raise money by telling our family story (check it out here –https://www.hospitalresearch.com.au/the-long-goodbye-brett…/ ). Faizal became my mentor and has introduced me to so many influential people within the hospital network and aged care system and opened many doors.

I have watched him do his thing and have learnt so much about dementia care, how to look after people with dignity, and how to create culture change. He has taught me how to influence people, given me the confidence to speak in public and inspired me to make a difference on a big scale without fear. Whenever Faizal has been involved ‘magic happens’ – he is on 11 committees, he is a very well respected geriatrician and dementia advocate, and he cares like no other. He encouraged me to study and complete the UTAS MOOC online course and has spent so much time steering me along the right paths to allow me to create as much culture change and awareness as I can. We have been so busy working together on all our dementia related activities and I pinch myself when I am in the hospital committee meetings sitting amongst such knowledgeable medical people in a world I never thought I would understand. Even though I have no medical credentials Faizal interpreted the jargon for me and made me feel an integral part of the team as the consumer rep.

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank him for taking me under his wing and creating such an amazing array of experiences, valuable learning and self discovery for me. Faizal is currently dealing with his sick father in Malaysia and my thoughts are with his family.

Faizal came up to me recently and reflected upon our first year advocating & presenting together…he then said ” we did well, but now things are going to get busy for you” …..ahhhhhhhhh!!!!

Thank you Faizal for your mentorship, friendship & care for our family. Bravo!

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