13 Oct 2022
HEIDI DOUGLASS | firstname.lastname@example.org
KPMG’s National Managing Partner of Audit, Assurance and Risk Consulting, Eileen Hoggett, lost her beloved Mum, Christine Moloney, to younger onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2013.
Looking back, Eileen says it is hard to pinpoint the first moment she realised something was different but does recall that in the lead up to her diagnosis, her Mum stopped calling regularly and avoided long conversations.
“In hindsight, I think Mum had started finding it difficult to answer questions about what she had been up to and what her plans were for the week,” says Eileen.
Christine Moloney was the youngest of 4 children and spent her life in Canberra, the place she loved best.
“My Grandfather told her that she wasn’t allowed to get married until she was 21; so she got married on her 21st birthday,” says Eileen. “Together my Mum and Dad had a wonderful life together.”
“My strongest memories of Mum revolve around her always delighting in the things that my siblings and I were doing. She was always excited by what was happening in our lives and so immensely proud of all of us.”
Another great memory – and something many still talk about – was her infectious laugh. It filled the room and you couldn’t help but smile when you were around her.
In 2013, when Christine Moloney lost her battle with Alzheimer’s, she was just 66 years of age.
In that year, the leading cause of death among all Australians was ischaemic heart disease. Just a decade later, and the leading cause of death among women is dementia.
The ferocity of the disease was so sudden that it was enormously difficult for us all to grasp, still to this day.
“I still find it hard to reconcile my life with Mum not here,” says Eileen.
There are an estimated 487,500 people living with dementia in Australia – and 28,800 of those people are under the age of 65 with younger onset dementia. Without a major breakthrough, younger onset dementia is expected to increase to over 40,000 by the middle of the century.
Eileen says that there were many challenges through her Mum’s journey with Alzheimer’s.
“What happened to her feels so unfair. She spent her life being a devoted, loving and wonderful daughter, wife, Mum, Grandmother and friend – and then didn’t get to enjoy what should have been some of the greatest years of her life with my Dad and our families.”
“It is now a decade since her passing and I can finally say that I am consoled by the fact that she didn’t have a long experience with Alzheimer’s.”
There are over 10 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide, implying one new case every 3.2 seconds, and each person’s journey is incredibly different with no clear understanding on how quickly, or slowly, someone’s cognitive decline will be.
“My best friend is currently going through the trauma of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis for her Dad. It’s so sad and heartbreaking and brings back so many memories of Mum’s journey.”
“The speed at which this insidious disease took our beautiful Mum was absolutely shocking to all of us, but the alternative wasn’t a good option either.”
Eileen, who has been with KPMG for 30 years, a partner since 2005 and sits on the National Executive Committee, says she is proud to be part of an organisation that has partnered with The Dementia Momentum led by UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) to drive awareness and support for dementia research across the corporate community.
It’s a fitting tribute to my Mum and allows me the opportunity to talk more about her.
“I would love to be able to tell Mum that she instilled a real sense of family in us all, that her children and grandchildren are all happy and that we get together regularly with Dad. We all celebrate family, which I know would have been important to Mum.”
“Without increased investment in research the answers remain out of reach,” says Eileen. “Like most people, I’d like to see things that bring us closer to a cure or help us better understand how we can – as a community – reduce the number of people that are impacted from Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”
“We need to prioritise investment in research as far too many families are affected."
"I would like to see our society have a better appreciation of how to identify early signs and how to interact with someone living with dementia in a manner that is loving and respectful.”
Dementia is vastly under-funded, relative to cancer and heart disease, even though the disability caused by dementia in the older population is much greater.
We know that research is the key, and we need a quantum leap in investment to meet these challenges.
CHeBA is perfectly placed to meet the challenge.