Jason and Megan van Genderen
The documentary film “Everybody’s Oma”, debuted at the Sydney International Film Festival, follows the life of Hendrika van Genderen, a mother and grandmother who gained global attention for her Facebook-shared home videos documenting her journey with dementia. Megan Van Genderen, Hendrika’s daughter-in-law and carer, has spoken about her experiences and what she learned while caring for Hendrika.
Megan, a registered nutritionist and mother of two young children, found caring for Hendrika challenging on top of her other responsibilities. She highlighted the pressure women often face in assuming most unpaid care work and encouraged partners to share care duties equally. Megan emphasised the importance of having a robust support network, ensuring that carers have time for self-care, and balancing caregiving with other aspects of life, such as work and hobbies.
During the pandemic, Megan and her husband, Jason Van Genderen, cared for Hendrika full-time, adjusting their work schedules to ensure they could provide her with constant support. The couple relied on teamwork and the support of their children to create a loving and nurturing environment for Hendrika.
As Hendrika’s dementia advanced, she developed dysphagia and difficulty swallowing and eating. Drawing on her nutritionist expertise, Megan prepared meals that were both nutritious and easy for Hendrika to consume. Notably, she aimed to recreate flavours and meals from Hendrika’s teenage years, invoking pleasant memories and comforting Hendrika during meal times.
Megan plans to continue advocating for unpaid carers and the elderly. She intends to create resources that foster the well-being of older Australians, focusing on elements such as movement, socialisation, and nutrition. Additionally, she aims to develop a ‘Carer Empowerment Program’, providing carers with strategies for maintaining their well-being while offering care to others.
Dr Mark Gross
Dr Mark Cross is one of Australia’s most loved and respected psychiatrists. As an openly gay man who has experienced anxiety since childhood, his empathy and humour imbue his practice with a unique perspective and approach.
Throughout his three-decade-long career, Mark has gathered a wealth of clinical experience. He commenced his medical journey in Cape Town, undertook specialisation in the UK, and has provided specialist services in Sydney since 2005. In recognition of his significant contributions to psychiatry, Mark was awarded the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists NSW Branch Meritorious Award in 2015.
Mark holds esteemed roles as a senior conjoint lecturer at the Universities of NSW and Western Sydney, illustrating his commitment to education. His particular areas of interest include sexuality issues, mental health in the workplace, and enhancing the care and quality of life for individuals with firsthand experience of mental health conditions.
He is a board member of SANE and has made significant contributions to media productions to improve understanding of mental health. These include his role as the lead psychiatrist on the groundbreaking ABC series “Changing Minds” and as a medical consultant for the ABC drama series “Wakefield”.
Mark is also the founder of “The Anxious Shrink” on Facebook, a platform providing anxiety advice that has reached over half a million people. As a best-selling author, he has shared his insights and expertise in two books, and he often makes appearances in the media and on podcasts to discuss mental health issues.
As an in-demand speaker, Mark is frequently invited to participate in conferences, professional development events, and sessions at educational and government establishments. His focus areas are varied: difficult conversations, anxiety, mental health in the workplace, LGBTQIA mental health issues, resilience and recovery for young people in the post-pandemic world, the pursuit of happiness, and strategies to avoid professional burnout.
In addition to his speaking engagements, Mark provides services to enhance mental health in the workplace. He collaborates with large corporates, educational institutions, and government agencies to improve their mental health policies and procedures. His services include reviewing and auditing workplace wellness assets, assessing and mitigating mental health risks in the workplace, and conducting regular webinars upon request.
Mark has been a trailblazer in demystifying mental health wards, champing the unprecedented move to allow film crews access. This initiative resulted in the award-winning series “Changing Minds”, hailed by the Sydney Morning Herald as “one of the most important programmes in the history of Australian television”.
Furthermore, his consultancy role in the drama series “Wakefield” created an authentic and multifaceted portrayal of mental health. Mark regularly comments on mental health issues, often as a podcast guest.
Finally, Mark has co-authored a book titled “Changing Minds: The go-to guide for mental health for family and friends” with Dr Catherine Hanrahan, providing an accessible resource for those seeking to understand and navigate mental health issues.