More and more people are now living with dementia – in 2017 over 400,000 Australians are living with dementia, whereas in 2011 that figure was around 298,000. The word ‘dementia’ is coming up much more regularly in the media, and the general public are hearing more – bit by bit – about dementia every day.
Unfortunately a lot of media coverage about dementia has a fearful edge to it – as though life is over if a person develops dementia. Many people with dementia report feeling that there is still an enormous stigma to developing dementia – and these media reports don’t seem to do much to change that.
Ozcare’s Dementia Advisory and Support Service is working hard to get the word out that it doesn’t have to be like this. It is possible to live well with dementia, and a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean that everything has to stop. It is possible to support people to live well in their own communities – especially if we work with local communities to become ‘dementia-friendly’.
We’ve recently launched some new resources to promote these sorts of messages.
We’ve pulled together a new handy-size leaflet on ‘Living well with dementia’, which answers some basic questions about dementia:
- What is dementia?
- Can dementia be prevented?
- What does it mean to live well with dementia?
- What is a dementia-friendly community?
We’ve also done some work to develop the information we have on Ozcare’s website about dementia – to include information about dementia-friendly communities, and living well with dementia. We’re thrilled – our dementia information on the Ozcare website is proving really popular, especially since it was redeveloped in 2016. It’s even more important that this information is regularly updated and refreshed with new ideas, information and resources.
What does it mean to live well with dementia?
Our advisors offer support to individual people with dementia and their families and they see time and time again that it is possible for a person diagnosed with dementia to continue to live well.
But what does this mean in practice?
- Keeping up with friends and regular activities – possibly with some adjustments – is a great approach. This might mean keeping up with travelling (see our booklet on this here), staying involved in a local group, or meeting up regularly with friends and family – whatever it is that is stimulating and supportive
- Being active, healthy and well rested matters. Cognitive challenges are all much harder to live with if a person has physical health problems too
- Feeling valued, listened to and understood by others is vital. This relies on good communication from others
What does it mean to live in a ‘dementia-friendly community’?
Dementia-friendly communities are places that support people with dementia to:
- Live full and active lives
- Be involved with and contribute to their community
- Feel welcome and understood
Local communities can offer lots of support to help people live well with dementia.
It begins with tackling stigma – many people are afraid to talk about dementia.
Raising awareness about dementia is important.
People with dementia say that environments make a big difference to how they manage: for example, noisy situations can make it hard to process what is going on around you.
Ozcare’s dementia advisors do a lot of work with local communities all over Queensland to promote dementia awareness. Some good examples of this are:
- Helping to facilitate visits for people with dementia and family carers to local art galleries
- Running dementia information sessions in local libraries, including involving people with dementia in presenting at these sessions
- Organising regular social get-togethers for people with dementia and their family carers in everyday community venues such as cafes, restaurants and parks
- Supporting a local church to become dementia-friendly, by teaching the church community about dementia and how to support people with dementia to stay connected with their church community
- Raising awareness about dementia at general local groups aimed at older people: for example, Men’s Sheds and Probus groups, and facilitating ongoing involvement of people with dementia in these sorts of groups
- From time to time, sharing stories with local media outlets about how it’s possible to live well with dementia – through sharing powerful stories from individuals about their lived experience
- Sharing information about dementia at the commencement of a senior’s cinema session
- Facilitating the involvement of people with dementia in local walking groups – for example through our work with Heart Foundation Walking
- Attending a university orientation day to distribute information about dementia and help available
- Being involved in a local dementia alliance, a group of over 30 local organisations working to promote dementia-friendly communities
What can you do to promote dementia-friendly communities?
Each one of us can make a difference. Here are some suggestions for the sorts of things that individuals can do to promote dementia-friendly communities:
- Learn more about dementia
- If you have a relative, friend or neighbour living with dementia, make an effort to keep in touch
- If you are involved in local clubs and community groups, think about how welcoming and open these groups are to people with dementia.
Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2012, Dementia in Australia.
Dementia Australia ‘Statistics’
Dementia Australia (2017) Dementia and the impact of stigma