Suddenly Alzheimer's: Johanna Constantini on her father's dementia

© Mel Burger

More than 130,000 people in Austria suffer from dementia. One of them is former national football coach DD Constantini, who was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 64. His daughter Johanna has published two books where she provides insight into her father's life and strategies for dealing with dementia.

Johanna Constantini was jogging in the forest when she received a call on June 4, 2019 with the news that her father had been involved in a traffic accident. At the hospital, she discovers that he was the one who caused the ghost accident on the Brenner Freeway. A few weeks later came the diagnosis: Didi Constantini, the former superstar and darling of the sports world, was suffering from dementia. Rumors spread and the family decides to go public about his illness.

Today, five years later, Didi Constantini (69) relies on 24-hour care. Daughter Johanna, who works as a self-employed clinical psychologist in Innsbruck, published two books at Seifert Verlag during these five years.

In his first book, “Offsite” (released in 2020), he offers insights into personal strategies and his father's life. In the second book, “Offsite 2” (published in 2023), he provides insights into how to deal with people with dementia and focuses more on help and support options for relatives. Didi Constantini, 31, is a grandfather to two children. At the time of our phone interview, Johanna Constantini was living with her father in a residential and nursing home.

Mrs. Constantini, how is your father?
Johanna Constantine: I'm with him now, he's fine, he's happy, balanced right now. Unfortunately he can no longer communicate verbally in detail, but he is in very good hands here.

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When did you first realize your father might have dementia?After retiring from his career 14 years ago, Dad became more and more withdrawn and we noticed mood swings. Forgetfulness gradually occurred, as did orientation difficulties and word-finding difficulties. But initially a pessimistic attitude prevailed.

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On June 4, 2019, he caused a wrong-way accident on Brenner Highway. A few weeks later I was diagnosed with dementia. When in the family did you decide to go public with his illness?
There was a lot of talk beforehand as Dad became more and more withdrawn before the accident. There were even rumors of an alcohol addiction. However, these are never directly brought to our attention; We found out about them through a third party. Then he had an accident, which received a lot of media attention and legally required investigations. That's why we decided to go public.

Your father is in a nursing home, how difficult was the move for the family?
Of course, this decision was not easy for us, but it was no longer possible to take care of dad at home, neither for us nor for him. There were ups and downs. Sometimes there was more acceptance, sometimes less. But at this stage we supported him very actively and made sure he was at home with my mum or me during the day. This smooth transition helped us all to cope with the new situation.

You can read the full interview in the new issue and online here.

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