The Reality of Dementia - A Husband's Perspective

12 Oct 2022

du Chateaus


For Michael du Chateau, dementia is a thief. A cruel and brutal thief that is stealing the life of his much-loved wife, Jilly.

Jill was diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease when she was in her late 50’s. According to Michael, she began having reactions to situations that were outside of her usual behaviour.

 “From that point, I had to bite the bullet and organise tests, coordinate a brain scan, talk to a neurologist, and speak with a dementia specialist."

“I had to start down that brutal road.”

Together, they share three sons and a daughter, who have all shared this challenging path with their Dad, with the painful awareness that there is no cure. In 2019 Jilly entered a facility as Michael was no longer able to meet the care demands she required, with the first few months particularly difficult for the du Chateau family.

“The reality comes once you enter that doorway,” says Michael. “There’s no turning back.”

In the beginning, I’d take Jilly to the home, and she would tell me she didn’t want to go back there. When I left her at the door I’d be in tears.

Michael du Chateau

Since Jilly’s diagnosis, the support and involvement of the du Chateau extended family in CHeBA-led initiatives has been extraordinary.

Michael’s brother-in-law and Jill’s brother, Anthony Scotts, has competed in four of CHeBA’s Wipeout Dementia surfing events, with Michael sharing his personal and

Jillian du Chateau
Jillian du Chateau

heartbreaking journey at the post-event ceremony in 2019.

According to Michael attending the event and seeing the extraordinary support behind research had given him a renewed sense of hope for the future.

In the 2022 Property Industry Wipeout Dementia, Michael surfed in the newly created Bob & Jill’s Line Up, a team captained by Anthony Scotts and created in honour of Jill and their late father Bob, who passed away from dementia in 2019. The team was a family affair, consisting also of Richard and Colin Scotts, Jilly’s sons Myles and Anton, and Jilly’s nephews BJ, Jackson and Beau.

The team’s fundraising efforts have raised significant funding towards CHeBA’s critical research.

“There are eminent clinicians, doctors, professors, whole groups of people dedicated to seeking answers,” says Michael. “It is spectacular to see the amount of work that is going on.”

The extensive support of Michael and his family inspires CHeBA’s researchers to continue their research across the full spectrum of dementia research, from looking at biomarkers for earlier intervention, to prevention strategies.

“The end game in this is to find a cure,” says Michael. “But nobody yet has the beast by the throat”.
In the meantime, Michael and his family focus on living in the moment.

“It’s a constant battle to make my wife’s life as happy and fulfilled as I possibly can,” says Michael. “Love is, and must be, the one absolute constant in this battle.”

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.

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