Together through dementia: a love story


Wednesday, 14 February, 2024

Together through dementia: a love story

When 79-year-old Gay McNamara first saw husband Jimmy at the Gympie Show 63 years ago, she knew he was the love of her life.

“I remember spotting Jimmy from afar and being in awe of how much he resembled Elvis Presley and James Dean. The second I got home I asked everyone I knew who that ‘good-looking boy’ was… the rest is history,” she said.

Six decades of marriage later, Jimmy’s health declined in 2023 as he began to experience the early stages of dementia. The pair decided TriCare’s Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence would be the best place for him moving forward. The round-the-clock care offers Gay peace of mind and it’s handy to get to as it’s just around the corner from the couple’s North Brisbane home.

Despite being forced to live apart, they remain inseparable. Gay travels from the family home in Zillmere to TriCare Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence to pay her best friend his daily visit. Jimmy is experiencing the early stages of dementia.

“I come at 8 am each day and we spend a few hours together, either watching TV together or just catching up,” Gay said.

Despite the lifestyle adjustment, the couple certainly haven’t lost their romantic spark.

“We’ve had a wonderful life, spent a lot of time travelling and seeing the world. Being huge Elvis fans, we’ve visited Graceland and have plenty of cherished memories to look back on,” she added.

“The most treasured Valentine’s gift I ever received from Jimmy is a diamond heart-shaped necklace he and his brother chipped in and bought me for my 15th birthday.

“I’ve worn it for the last 60 years and will continue to do so, so Jimmy is always by my side.”

Despite not being able to communicate as well as he used to, Jimmy hasn’t lost his cheeky sense of humour, nor his top-notch snooker skills.

“Our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren love playing pool when they come to visit, it’s something we can do to pass the time,” Gay added.

Family connection is so important to the McNamaras that Jimmy’s extended family donated a pool table to the facility.

“The family love visiting, and Jimmy really enjoyed teaching the grandchildren the skills. Our littlest grandson, who’s only five, loves coming after school and playing a game with grandpa — he’s certainly got the competitive McNamara genes,” Gay said.

According to the Facility Manager at Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence, Sandra Finnen, the introduction of the pool table into the communal area has been a point of interest for so many of the residents.

“It brings them out of their rooms and down here for some activity and friendly competition,” she said.

While those early courting days seem so long ago now, Jimmy and Gay continue to spend quality time together, reminiscing about their incredible love story and just being beside the person they love.

Image: Gay and Jimmy McNamara: supplied.

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