Carina couple Vera and Keith Walsh say they didn’t know anything about dementia until Keith was diagnosed with it last year – and even then it has been very hard to find out what this diagnosis means.
The struggle for information is a common one for people living with dementia and their families – but even harder for people who are deaf. Vera and Keith are both deaf, and both use sign language (Auslan) to communicate.
The couple have lent their support to a new joint venture from not-for-profit care provider Ozcare and Deaf Services Queensland – the production of five new short films on dementia aimed at the deaf community. In one of the films, Vera speaks openly about her experiences of supporting Keith, and some of the difficulties that the couple have faced.
Vera says, “In the past I didn’t know anything about it. It wasn’t until Keith was in hospital last year for another health problem, and they said he had dementia. And I thought, “What does that mean?”’
Vera was left with questions about the diagnosis and what to expect for the future. But, with help from Deaf Services Queensland, the couple were put in touch with Ozcare’s Dementia Advisory and Support Service – a team of dementia advisors who work across Queensland to offer information and support to people with dementia and their families.
Vera and Keith have now worked with dementia advisor Merril Gillman for a couple of months, finding out more about dementia, practical strategies for managing day-to-day living, and learning about what to expect in coming months and years.
Vera is a firm believer that talking about these things is important – but she says, “The deaf community doesn’t talk about dementia.” She is hoping that films such as these could be very important for increasing awareness among the deaf community.
For some time, Deaf Services Queensland (DSQ) has been aware that dementia is becoming more of an issue among the older deaf people whom it supports – because they want to know more about it, perhaps because they are living with, or supporting someone with dementia, or perhaps because there is now more talk of dementia in the wider community. DSQ’s care staff also want to know more about this pressing issue. Ozcare’s dementia advisors have now led a number of education sessions – both with DSQ care staff and with the local Deaf community – to start to raise awareness about dementia.
Ozcare led the development of the script for the films, which will also be used in joint education work with Deaf Services Queensland across the state in 2018.