Linda Cole's life changed when she was forced into retirement to care for her elderly parents.
Linda Cole's life changed when she was forced into retirement to care for her elderly parents. Brett Wortman

Accept what life throws at us

SOME people would associate the term "life-changing event" with winning the lottery or taking a trip around the world.

But Linda Cole's life-changing event was nothing of the sort.

After working in human resources in a government department for 14 years in Melbourne, the 62-year-old was forced into retirement in February this year to become a full-time carer for her aging parents.

Last year after suffering symptoms for six years, Linda's father was diagnosed with Lewy body disease - the second-most common form of dementia in older people.

She moved from Melbourne to Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast to be closer to her parents, leaving her own support base of family and friends.

Along with caring for her parents full time, Linda manages Beerwah Books and Bits with husband Bernie and studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

She somehow manages to juggle the three roles every day but Linda said her busy lifestyle was her coping mechanism.

"It's draining, both physically and emotionally, but I keep as busy as I possibly can," she said.

"It's my personality and I've been like it all my life but it's my way of coping."

When asked how she dealt with the sudden change in her life, Linda's light-hearted personality shone through.

"Not with chardonnay - that's for sure," she said.

"No, I threw myself into research and started a support group as there was no support in Australia (for the disease)."

Linda is completing a tertiary preparation pathway and will start a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English, next year.

"I love being at university," she said. "It's a fantastic relief as it's 'my time'."

Upon completing her degree, Linda hopes to become a full-time lobbyist for Lewy body disease.

"My aim is to raise the profile so medical practitioners and health staff have a better understanding of Lewy disease," she said.

"This way, they will be able to diagnose it sooner and help sufferers and their families."

USC psychology professor Mary Katsikitis said while individuals dealt with life-changing events in their own personal way, her advice was simple.

"Surround yourself with people who love you and support you," she said.

"Let people do things for you - don't try to do it all yourself."

Professor Katsikitis said that while a life-changing event could leave some people feeling helpless, that attitude could be changed with positive thinking.

"There may be some problems that seem like they can't be solved," she said.

"But it's the individual's way of thinking that makes them think that it can't.

"Be positive and proactive about changing your life for the better."

While Linda and her husband have experienced difficulties, she maintains an optimistic attitude.

"It has been the greatest gift," she said.

"I'm closer to my father and I've met many wonderful people through the support group."


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