Advocated well for dementia

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End of an era . . . Alzheimer's Otago manager Julie Butler, who is stepping down from the role, still has a huge passion for advocating for people living with dementia. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Stepping down after 18 years in the role of Alzheimer’s Otago manager will be a wrench for passionate advocate Julie Butler.

“I still have a huge passion for the organisation and it will be lovely to be able to look back on all we have done to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” she said.

“Still, it will take me some time to get used to it.”

Mrs Butler (51) was appointed to the manager’s position in November, 2000, when the society had just two Dunedin-based staff.

Under her leadership the organisation has grown to cover Dunedin, North Otago, Central Otago, and Queenstown Lakes, employing seven staff and working with about 500 families.

Mrs Butler, who steps down at the end of March, made the decision after battling the cognitive effects of a series of mini-strokes due to a medical accident two years ago.

This came on top of a brain injury which occurred in 2007, when she was hit in the eye by a stray firework.

“The area of my brain that was damaged by the strokes, and by that previous head injury, is really needed in this role,” she said.

Experiencing these medical issues has given Mrs Butler a unique insight into the battles experienced every day by people living with cognitive impairment.

“I may end up writing about it for the society to use as a resource,” she said.

While she would not miss the constant financial battle of running the organisation, Mrs Butler feels “extremely privileged” to have been able to share in the lives of people with dementia and their carers.

“The impact they have had on my life, and that of my family, has been significant.

“I have always found people with dementia and their carers to be amazingly giving – I have learned so much from them.”

Mrs Butler also paid tribute to her colleagues in the not-for-profit sector, describing them as the “backbone of the community”.

Alzheimer’s Otago chairman Maurice Burrowes said Mrs Butler had made a “very significant” contribution to the organisation during the past 18 years.

“Her energy, passion and commitment for the work that the society undertakes has been really appreciated and we wish her well for the future,” he said.

A farewell function for Mrs Butler is planned for March 29, and she hopes to see many friends and colleagues there.

“I would love to be able to say thank you to all the people who have made me look good over the years.”

For more information, or to register to attend, email admin@alzheimersotago.org.nz