To mark Dementia Action Week 2019, which runs from 16-22 September, Dementia Australia will be calling on all Australians to change how we respond and behave around people living with dementia.
This year’s theme, Dementia doesn’t discriminate. Do you?, aims to start a conversation with all Australians to consider how discrimination impacts people living with dementia, their families and carers.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said dementia doesn’t discriminate in terms of who is impacted, but we can choose not to be discriminatory in the way we interact with individuals who are living with this chronic condition.
“A person living with dementia might be ignored or dismissed in conversations,” Ms McCabe said.
“Sometimes people without realising will talk directly to the carer as if the person living with dementia is not even there.
“Assumptions might be made about a person’s capacity to contribute to conversations, decisionmaking, whether they can still drive, cook or even continue to work. Friends and family might stop calling or inviting a person living with dementia to social occasions – not out of deliberate neglect but possibly out of not knowing how to include them.
“Our focus during Dementia Action Week will deepen the enquiry into discrimination and dementia.”
The national peak body is calling on the community to complete a short survey to help to create an informed, national picture to better understand how discrimination for people living with dementia occurs, within what contexts, and what it would take to shift that behaviour.
Dementia Advocate Dennis Frost who is living with dementia said that getting as many people as possible to complete the survey will provide solid data that will enable Dementia Australia to develop a roadmap towards changing community attitudes and behaviours.
“With 70 per cent of the 447,000 Australians with dementia still living in the community it is so important for people, just like me and our carers, to remain connected and respected as we go about our everyday lives,” Mr Frost said.
“We really want this survey to challenge Australians and inspire a societal shift in thinking about how their responses impact on the everyday life of a person living with dementia.”
Ms McCabe said recent research had shown that around 40 per cent of people feel awkward around someone with dementia and found talking to them confronting.
“This lack of understanding about dementia impacts over time with people living with dementia more than two times more likely not to see friends compared to carers and the general public,” she said.
There are a range of ways that people can get involved in Dementia Action Week.
This includes completing the survey and then sharing the survey link and messages via social media to spread the word.
Dementia Australia is inviting the community to join the conversation about discrimination and dementia by hosting a Dementia Action Week event with friends, family, their local club or community group, or at work.
Dementia Australia has DIY Dementia Action Week event kits now available online, which include posters, postcards and brochures. The Dementia Action Week DIY events aim to encourage guests to complete the survey and have a conversation about how we talk and think about dementia.
To launch this important conversation Dementia Australia will host, ‘Discrimination and dementia. The health issue of our time.’ on Monday 16 September at the Sydney Opera House that will include a panel discussion with Dementia Australia Ambassador Ita Buttrose AC OBE; The Hon Jeff Kennett AC, former Premier of Victoria and former Chair of Beyond Blue; Shaynna Blaze, interior designer, host of Selling Houses Australia on Foxtel and a judge on the Nine Network’s The Block; and including others with a lived experience of dementia.
The panel will be facilitated by Sky News Australia Political Editor David Speers. Seats will be limited for this free event.
If interested in attending, please keep an eye on Dementia Australia’s website and social media channels. All Australians can make a difference.
Find out more about Dementia Action Week at dementia.org.au/dementia-action-week