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Graduate launches new Alzheimer's Initiative

Last year, grandmother of nine and Geelong business woman, Cathy Roth graduated with a Bachelor of Business. Already making a big impact, Cathy has started an organisation called PALZ (Professionals with Alzheimer’s) for people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. We had a chat to Cathy to learn more about this incredible initiative.

Cathy, can you talk us through what PALZ is all about?

PALZ provides an intellectually stimulating bi- monthly experience for those who have been working in a professional environment but are now no longer able to work due to the diagnosis, and are thus deprived of the peer interaction and social and professional support and development the workplace brings.

How did the idea come about?

The idea actually came to me when I was seeking stimulating activities for my intelligent and analytical husband following his diagnosis with Alzheimer's Disease.

What do the catch-ups involve?

The bi- monthly catch-ups emulate professional development meetings with stimulating presentations on a range of topics - from advances in research in specialised areas like astronomy and engineering, to interest areas such as botany and natural wonders of the world. In non-meeting months, there is an opportunity for interest groups to meet up or for the group to do an industry visit, learn languages or just to have that month clear.

How important is it for those with Alzheimer’s to remain connected to others, and to their community?

It is vital for those with Alzheimer's Disease to stay connected. Every pathway that can be created, stimulated and retained, maintains quality of life and independence. This can then translate into a huge saving on community health costs with the prolonging of independent living. Sadly, the diagnosis generally brings a societal disconnection. PALZ aims to reverse that.

What has the response been like so far?

The response has been amazing! Support has ranged from medical, research, and care agencies, councils, employers, and community groups. Outstanding assistance has come from Harwood Andrews, Bupa, Golden Plains Shire, and so many others. Truly humbling and overwhelming!

How did your Bachelor of Business help with setting this organisation up?

The degree from Swinburne gave me the essential tools such as strategic and analytical thinking, research skills, sequential planning skills, but perhaps more importantly the confidence and self-belief to pursue a concept about which I am passionate.

What do you hope to achieve down the track with PALZ?

The hope down the track is that every person with Alzheimer's Disease, lacking a peer support network, will find one in PALZ. Some diagnosed do have that peer support (neighbours, sporting clubs, workmates) but so many do not.

PALZ will formally launch on November 8. A state launch will be in early 2017 and a national launch later next year.