It’s that time of year again when our Dementia Advisory and Support Service is flat-out helping to promote Dementia Awareness Month across Queensland. Dementia Awareness Month is an initiative of Dementia Australia, the national peak body on dementia, and is held every year in September.
This year’s theme for Dementia Awareness Month is ‘Small actions, Big difference’ – and it’s a theme that our team of dementia advisors can support wholeheartedly. They see the proof of it every day. Here are just a few examples:
One of our advisors got a whole extended family together from far and wide to meet at the same time – to learn about dementia, to hear straight from their mum’s mouth what it feels like to live with dementia, and to work out how they’re going to juggle things together in the future. It was a small, one-off event which made a huge difference to this family, who are now feeling so much more positive.
Another of our advisors spent months encouraging a man living with dementia to come along to a local day centre. He was reluctant, and anxious too that his life was about to change beyond recognition. For this man, valuing his talent as a piano player was the key – he now comes to the centre regularly and delights others there with his piano playing.
One advisor spotted that it was computer troubles that was the stumbling block for one couple, both avid dog lovers, who were desperately seeking a new dog after their old dog died – but getting nowhere as they were struggling with using the internet. Simply helping them find the right telephone number made the difference: they could talk to a human being about their needs and preferences, and get going from there. Having a dog meant this couple stayed active, taking the dog for twice-daily walks, and linked them with other dog walkers in the retirement facility where they lived.
In another situation, two of our advisors were approached by care staff – they were supporting a woman with dementia who was having difficulty making conversation, and the care staff were struggling to know what to do when they were with her. The advisors learnt more about the woman – she was something of an entertainer in her day, and had even made a CD. The advisors tracked down the CD – and now the staff take the woman out for drives in the car, playing the CD all the way, while she happily sings along all the way!
Another advisor worked with a family where the woman – in her late 40s – has dementia, and her two young daughters are struggling to understand what’s going on with mum’s changing, unusual behaviour. The advisor explained the dementia diagnosis to the children, and showed them interactive games online that have helped them learn about dementia. This woman’s husband feels the small input from Ozcare has made a big difference – he can problem solve with the girls together, knowing they have a good understanding of dementia and why things are happening as they are.
All sorts of small actions here: from arranging a family meeting to finding the right telephone number, our dementia advisors work hard to identify what it is that will make the difference for a person with dementia to stay active and engaged, or to be better understood and supported by those around them.
As part of Dementia Awareness Month, Dementia Australia will be campaigning to create more dementia-friendly communities across Australia – by asking everyone to sign up to become a Dementia Friend.
We know that local communities can offer lots of support to help people live well with dementia. If people at local facilities – ordinary places, such as churches, shopping centres and libraries – know what dementia is and how it might affect a person, they are more likely to welcome people with dementia.
In this way, people with dementia can keep up their usual activities and interests, perhaps with some adjustments along the way. This is the key to living well with dementia.
You can find out more about dementia-friendly communities and what Ozcare is doing to support it here on our website. We’ve produced a handy leaflet that explains it too.
If you’d like to get involved in Dementia Awareness Month activities, contact your local DASS dementia advisor on 1800 692 273 or click here to find an event near you.