Tireless work, colossal expertise and warm empathy have been the hallmarks of Dubbo-based dementia counsellor Kath Readford's practice, and the legacy she hands to her successors.
For 28 years she has supported hundreds and hundreds of carers and families of people with illnesses characterised by symptoms including memory loss, confusion and lessening intellectual functioning.
Mrs Readford has championed services for people with dementia and raised community awareness across western NSW, receiving an OAM in 2010 in recognition of her work.
On October 1 the registered nurse and clinical nurse consultant will start retirement, and as she does she is happy to have Anne Gemmell and Jeanie Cronk take on the dementia counsellor role.
After completing her training in Sydney, Mrs Readford started her career at Hornsby as a community nurse, and a vocation was confirmed.
"I just liked to do community and aged care, that's always been a love," she said.
Marriage took her to Coonamble, and there she did community and hospital nursing, managed Home Care for a time, and these as well as other experiences influenced her path.
"I've looked after family members who've had dementia and it's just been an interest of mine," she said.
The Readfords had recently moved to Dubbo when in 1993 a national action plan for dementia care was released, and the Alzheimer's Association had five dementia counsellor positions across the state.
"Dubbo was where there was one position, based with Dr Palmer, and the ACAT [Aged Care Assessment Team]," Mrs Readford said.
On the eve of Dementia Action Week, which starts on Monday, Mrs Readford reflected on some key achievements.
A standout is Home Club, the dementia-specific day centre Mrs Readford called for in a submission to Lourdes Hospital and saw come to fruition in 1999.
It continues to operate at its same site, operated by Catholic Community Services.
"That was a big thing, this is the only dementia-specific day centre in the region, and it's a wonderful area where we can have people with dementia and keep them stimulated and actively engaged while the carer has a break," Mrs Readford said.
"That's been a very important step."
Carer education projects for people across the region had been valuable, Mrs Readford said.
The long-time nurse also regards telehealth as an advancement.
"Because unfortunately we don't have a geriatrician in Dubbo, but the next best thing is we use very good specialist geriatricians from Concord, and they're beamed over the telehealth, so that anywhere in the region, carers and their families can achieve a diagnosis," Mrs Readford said.
"So that's a very good thing."
Raising community understanding and awareness of dementia - which Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows is the second leading cause of death of Australians - is something "we need to be doing continually" but Mrs Readford hopes it has at least improved.
"And that people recognise if there is a problem, to please go and get help, from their GP, or ring staff here," she said.
"But there's always continuous awareness that needs to happen.
"Particularly out in regions, where I think sometimes people are perhaps more stoic, more independent, and they just manage.
"But it is important to go and get help early, and get a diagnosis."
The almost-retiree has lots of things she wants to do, including tennis, book club and volunteering with dementia carer support groups.
I might re-learn the piano again, read books, garden, and travel, when we're able to, John and I like to travel.- Kath Readford OAM
"I might re-learn the piano again, read books, garden, and travel, when we're able to, John and I like to travel," Mrs Readford said.
"So I'm looking forward to that."
Mrs Readford is calling time on her career with confidence in the colleagues who are taking on the role.
"I've been waiting a long while to actually feel that I've found two people who will work together and will continue the support for people with dementia and their family carers in this whole region," Mrs Readford said.
"It's very important to me, and I feel relaxed that you know, I can hand over.
"I feel very happy that I'm sure these girls will have new ideas and expand on continuing what's already been achieved, but achieve more community awareness, that's something as we said, that I'm sure they'll work on that too, and think of different ways."
Mrs Gemmell and Mrs Cronk, who will job-share, are in agreement that Mrs Readford is a sterling example.
"I feel very privileged to be stepping into Kath's shoes, although they're very big shoes to fill," Mrs Gemmell said.
"She has built an amazing job with dementia and I hope that Jeanie and I can take on the reins and we want to support the community just as well as she has, and I'm really looking forward to that challenge.
"I just want the community to know that we're here, we're still here...very excited to be taking on the role."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: