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Nurse walks Kokoda Trail for residents with dementia

Alzheimer’s Australia recently put out a call for people passionate about fighting dementia to walk the Kokoda Trail in aid of research and support. Registered nurse Sarah Pettenon answered.

Pettenon, manager of person directed care at Lifeview Residential Care, joined a small group of volunteers, including her colleague, chief financial officer James van Beek, on the expedition. Over 10 days, the party charted the single file trail that links Papua New Guinea’s mountainous centre to Owers' Corner near Port Moresby.

Both of Lifeview's trekkers helped the provider's staff members, residents and families in their fundraising efforts, including the raffling of a trailer full of household goods worth approximately $3,000. The team said all funds raised will go directly to Alzheimer's Australia Vic.

Pettenon, who specialises in the care of those living with dementia, said she walked the trail because she witnesses on a daily basis the impact dementia has on individuals and their carers.

She added people affected by dementia undertake a journey that is not dissimilar to what Australian soldiers experienced in 1942 on the Kokoda Trail. "Despite being fit, healthy, young men when they joined the war, they faced reduced visibility that contributed to confusion and disorientation, an inability to see each other, and coordinate movement and advancement of the front line. The climatic conditions and terrain restricted mobility, and they were prone to illnesses."

Nursing Review spoke with Pettenon about the gruelling trek and what she hopes people think about when it comes to dementia care.

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