A highly intelligent academic. Witty. Stubbornly independent.”

That is how daughter, Penelope Redmond once described her father.

Now, he can’t even remember who she is. A lifetime ago, Associate Professor John W. Redmond was an esteemed pharmacist and chemist in Australia’s scientific community.

But at 86 years old, John suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and lives among 12 other residents in a restrictive unit of an Arcare Aged Care facility in Sydney.

Decades later, it seems a cruel irony that there is no treatment available to assist his degenerative condition. There is no pharmaceutical intervention, nor cure approved for this largely unmanageable disease.

But, in the Phase 3 trial for new Alzheimer’s drug Donanemab, the Australian Dementia Network claims the results are ground-breaking.

In his last Environmental Restrictive Practice report, John was described as having “cognitive impairment… with poor ability to find his way from one place to another.” Unable to leave the community and behind locked doors, this can cause frustration and make John upset.


The Sensitive Care dementia facility is designed as one circular, never-ending loop and in the communal lounge, all halls lead to Elvis Presley’s old-school hits.


In a global clinical study, Eli Lilly’s new experimental drug Donanemb targets proteins in the brain to slow down cognitive decline and early-stage memory impairment by up to 35 per cent. For now, John only takes cholesterol and blood-pressure tablets and an aspirin each day.


Clinical lead Riya Dhewaju says life as a nurse can be challenging, but being able to create small, joyful moments for residents in times of need is what keeps her going.


“There has been vast improvement in care delivery in dementia. We treat residents with so much respect and dignity now… I don’t believe it was the same 10 years ago.”


According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia and without a medical breakthrough, the disease is expected to increase up to 1.1 million by 2059.


John’s biggest fear: I’m losing my marbles has now come true. “People are laughing at me” he says (they are not).



Main image, top: As John’s condition continues to worsen and his grasp of reality hangs on by a thread – Arcare staff are quietly confident advancements in medicine and technology will transform treatment for people living with dementia. Hopefully, Dhewaju says, in the next three to five years.

Photos by Yasmine Alwakal.