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Bethanie community member shares experiences in caring for those living with dementia

Monday 21 – Sunday 27 September 2020 is Dementia Action Week.

In Western Australia alone, over 42,900 people live with dementia.

Dementia Action Week creates an opportunity for those living with dementia, and their families and carers, to further advocate for more information to support dementia-friendly communities.

At Bethanie, our Therapy Team develop comprehensive and holistic activities and programs to support those living with dementia.

We chatted with a member of the Bethanie community, Jim Donnelly, about his ample experience in caring for those who live with dementia.

Jim is an ex-seaman and was once the Secondary Treasurer for the Maritime Union. Now, Jim cares for retired wharfies who live with dementia, ensuring they have all the necessities like new boots, magazines, taxi vouchers or anything else they might need.

When Jim’s aunt was diagnosed with dementia, he cared for her for the first three years. Now, she lives just over the road in Bethanie Waters’ secure dementia wing.

Jim’s wife Lillian was diagnosed with dementia just 12 months ago. He cares for her at home.

Prior to the diagnosis, Jim described Lillian as a very active and social person. Lillian was also very house-proud and loved making sure the home was clean and well-cared for.

Jim realised something wasn’t right when Lillian started keeping to herself, stopped worrying so much about their home and stopped going out to socialise.

As her condition began to worsen, she started to forget things more and more. Jim says that she often talks about her grandparents as though they are still around.

“She’ll say things like, ‘I must go visit them, we haven’t seen them in ages’, but they passed away nearly 20 years ago.”

Jim says that often Lillian is very resistant to some simple tasks such as putting pyjamas on to get ready for bed.

Jim’s advice to those in a similar position to him is to have a lot of patience.

Lillian now attends the Living Well Centre at Bethanie Waters three times a week.

Jim said; “She didn’t like it at first but has started to enjoy it more and more. She has started mixing and engaging with others. She has made many new friends.”

When asked what Living Well Centre activity Lillian liked the most, Jim said: “There isn’t one in particular, she just enjoys being around people.”

Bethanie take a person-centred approach to caring for those who live with dementia.

In understanding the individual on a more personal level, the team provide a better quality of care tailored to their needs.

To learn more about the individualised and meaningful dementia care provided by the team at Bethanie, please see our website:

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