ALZHEIMERS MUM

REPORTER: LAURA SPARKES

At Christmas we brought you the heartbreaking first television interview with Rebecca and Scott Doig. Diagnosed with Alzheimer's at just 31 and five months pregnant, Rebecca gave birth to a daughter, Emily, last weekend.

We first met Rebecca and Scott Doig in December. They were awaiting the arrival of their first baby. A momentous occasion for any young couple, but just one week before they learned Rebecca was pregnant; their lives were shattered by the devastation news that 31 year old Rebecca had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"Your world caves in. This is my young, beautiful, energetic, exuberant, life of the party wife. She's still Rebecca. She's always my wife. But she's not who she was," explains Scott.

Scott sees how the disease ravages her brain on a daily basis. The decline has been swift. Two years ago she was perfectly normal; then things started changing.

She'd lose her bag. She'd lose her bag twice a week. She'd lose her keys, forget where she'd parked the car, general vagueness," She's the one that lives with this and struggles with decision and rationale it frustrates her," says Scott.

"It's not so much anger, it's just something like, it takes five minutes to do things and I think ahhh, it's like that one thing and then you get back to it and you have to start again," says Rebecca.

"Below the age of sixty it's a very uncommon condition. Below forty, is extremely, extremely rare. Rebecca is one of the youngest people to have ever been diagnosed with a genetic form of the disease, which usually strikes after the age of sixty," explains Professor Henry Brodaty, Head of The Memory Disorders Clinic at Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital.

Unfortunately Alzheimer's disease is a disease of inorexorable decline. People go downhill. Medications may help steady progression of symptoms for a short period of time but eventually they don't have an affect it's likely that she's worse now than four months ago.

Scott told Today Tonight earlier this week that Rebecca had barely held the baby and that he is being mother, father and carer. It's a role he will need to get used to, because, short of a miracle the prognosis is not good.

Generally from onset of Alzheimer's to death it is about ten years on the average. If she's not able to remember the baby or remember how to feed the baby, then she's going to need a lot of help, a lot of care. And so is her husband.

The Doigs might need help, but no one has been forthcoming from the Government, with Rebecca forced to move two hours out of Sydney to live with her parents.

"I then thought ok we'll get a pension. Let's try and see if we can get a pension but that hit a brick wall as it is means tested against my wage so I would have to legally separate from Rebecca for her to get the pension?" Explains Scott.

"We want to be together now and we want to be together to bring up this child. I'd shudder to think if Rebecca's parents weren't around, I'd have nowhere to take her I'd have to quit my job, probably go on a carers pension and she would get a pension but I don't think that's enough money to really survive. We certainly wouldn't be able to keep our house," says Scott. "Our motto in this house is one day at a time," he adds.

Rebecca's' parents Bryan and Cheryl Martin are doing everything they can for their daughter.

"We're just trying to stimulate her brain. We try to help her find the answers and she just circles them and we always praise her when she finds one," Bryan and Cheryl explain.

"I'm still over the moon. Even though it's going to mean work and we'll have both Rebecca and the baby to look after but we will manage no trouble. It's very difficult to get full time care unless it is care that the person is able to pay for themselves," says Bryan.

"There are few services available for young people with Alzheimer's, because it's so rare to find them with the disease", explains Elena Katrakis CEO of the NSW Carers Association Elena Katrakis.

"In a perfect world there would be services available that they would be able to refer a person with younger onset dementia in order to get the support they need to be able to keep that person living in their own home," says Elena.

The family's worst nightmare is that Rebecca will wind up in a nursing home alongside elderly Australians with dementia. Scott hopes Rebecca's story might help open a few polititicians' eyes

So when you're thinking about your health policies and your care policies don't just think about old people think about the young people, can you imagine Rebecca being in a place with someone who's 75, 80 years old, there's no stimulation for her and she can still do things. So, think about the young people

Anyone who would like to donate money to the Doigs should head to a website that has been set up by Hornsby Shore Council, together with a trust fund. A benefit was held last weekend, raising $40-50,000.

The address is http:// www.doigfundraiser.com.au

Anyone seeking more information about Alzheimer's can contact Alzheimer's Australia:

www.alzheimers.org.au/