During three decades on Australian television, two simple words brought us to attention.
Outrageous, flamboyant, iconic – Jeanne Little captivated Australians everywhere with her unique style, cockatoo shrill voice and fashion sense.
“Mum wasn’t just the life of the party, she was the party.” Katie Little, Jeanne’s daughter remembers.
This icon of Australian television brought a smile into Australian homes. Tragically, today Jeanne can’t walk, talk or feed herself. She doesn’t recognise anyone, with a random sound or laugh the only glimpse of who she truly is. Jeanne Little has Alzheimer’s disease.
The 1,000 Brains Study
NeuRA is very excited to announce the 1,000 Brains Study, a ground-breaking research project to identify the elements in our brains that cause life-changing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other dementias. This study will focus on the key unresolved question: why do some of us develop devastating neurodegenerative diseases, while others retain good brain health?
The study will compare the genomes of people who have reached old age with healthy brains against the genomes of those who have died from neurodegenerative diseases, with post mortem examination of brain tissue taking place at NeuRA’s Sydney Brain Bank. More information on the study can be found here.
Will you please support dementia research and the 1,000 Brains Study and help drive the future of genetics research in Australia?
Outrageous, flamboyant, iconic – Jeanne Little captivated Australians everywhere with her unique style, cockatoo shrill voice and fashion sense that was as extravagant as it was ostentatious.
“Mum wasn’t just the life of the party, she was the party – so vibrant, always the centre of attention, so generous and so much fun.” Katie Little, Jeanne’s daughter and only child remembers.The bright light we all loved wasn’t a work of fiction or a character made for television. No, she was like that every day and in every way.“You try getting woken up for school at 8am by Jeanne Little every morning and see how you like it,” Katie jokes.
Gold Logie winner, loving wife, mother and grandmother, Jeanne broke the mould. An exceptionally talented seamstress who made dresses and frocks out of whatever was available around the community.
“Dad and I squashed milk bottle caps in front of the telly for a week while Mum sewed them on,” Katie remembers.
Ask the majority of Australians about Jeanne Little and watch a smile creep onto their face.
Today however, for those that adore her, that smile has turned to anguish. The number one killer of women in this country has taken hold, and will not let go.
The signs weren’t so obvious, given her ‘zany’ persona
Jeanne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, aged 68. Reflecting back, Katie and father Barry now see the signs before that. The pair remember Jeanne bumping into tables, forgetting details, and Katie vividly remembers her mum buying a dress at the shop… and it was completely and utterly the wrong size.
Katie recalls the moment she realised her mum’s mind was truly fading, finding a note Jeanne had hidden under a rug.
“It was like a diary entry with a date at the top and it said, ‘Today I was taken off to the doctor who said I’d been given some pills to see if I could be like I used to be and I don’t understand what this is all about and not even my daughter or my husband will tell me.’
Just for a minute imagine the utter confusion, the hurt and ‘betrayal’ Jeanne felt. To her, in that moment, she was isolated, alone, and scared.
“Mum was there in the room hearing what the doctor was saying but was far too gone by that stage to understand.”
This is the tragedy of dementia. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter who you are.
You don’t even know you have it.
Jeanne will turn 81 this May, marking eleven long years in full time care.
“Mum would hate living like this, absolutely hate it. She can’t do anything for herself, she can’t walk, she can’t talk, she can’t feed herself. She doesn’t recognise anyone, really. She might say a word out of nowhere and laugh and then suddenly you see a glimmer of the old Jeanne once more.”
Visiting her is very difficult.
‘I take someone with me, because it is just too depressing. When I talk about mum to friends, it’s almost as if you’re talking as if she’s passed away, but of course she hasn’t, she is still there.”
Some people refer to dementia as the long goodbye. For Katie and Jeanne’s husband Barry, this goodbye has gone on for eleven, long, years.
There is hope on the horizon
NeuRA researchers have revealed how lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, smoking and drinking impact your risk of neurodegenerative disease. We also know that genetic factors play a critical role in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Introducing, the 1,000 Brains Study.
The 1,000 Brains Study is a three year race against time to identify elements in our brains that cause life-changing diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other dementias. This study will focus on the key unresolved question: why do some of us develop devastating neurodegenerative diseases, while others retain good brain health?
The study will compare the genomes of people who have reached old age with healthy brains against the genomes of those who have died from neurodegenerative diseases, with post mortem examination of brain tissue taking place at NeuRA’s Sydney Brain Bank.
More detail on this exciting project can be found when you click here, but we really need your help to get started.
I am so thankful for the loyal support our proudly Australian medical research institute receives. Today I’m asking you to consider a gift that, when combined with gifts from around Australians, will drive the future of genetics research.
Perhaps instead you’d like to give a smaller amount monthly and provide our researchers – your researchers – with renewed confidence that they will have the funding to continue their work for years to come.
All gifts to NeuRA over $2 are fully tax-deductible, and with the end of the financial year soon upon us, now is the perfect time to invest in the future of all Australians.
Jeanne’s family thanks you
“It’s not just the people with dementia, which is terrible, it’s all the families who are also going through this too,” Katie says. “It’s just heartbreaking. And ten years… It goes on for a long, long time.”
If you love someone with dementia, you will know the pain Katie is talking about.
‘NeuRA is where all the smart people are, so we all need to get behind them and help them as much as possible. With your help, they can find how to prevent and cure this illness, so no one in future generations has to lose someone they love, like my mother Jeanne Little.’
With an ageing population and increasing rates of dementia, it’s time we said enough is enough. Together, we need to bravely invest in research, and we firmly believe that the 1.000 Brain’s Study – a once in a generation opportunity – will dramatically move dementia research forward.
Please, can we count on your partnership?
All gifts over $2 are tax deductible.