Myall Lakes electorate official commitment to creating dementia friendly communities

Poignant and honest: Former carer, Merv Gillies from Firefly had some audience members in tears as he told his story about caring for his parents. Photo: Scott Calvin
Poignant and honest: Former carer, Merv Gillies from Firefly had some audience members in tears as he told his story about caring for his parents. Photo: Scott Calvin

As the Myall Lakes electorate holds the dubious honour of having the largest number of people living with dementia, perhaps nowhere in NSW is the push for dementia friendly communities more important than in the Manning Valley and the Great Lakes.

On Monday, September 9 the Forster Tuncurry and Taree/Wingham Dementia Friendly Communities steering committees officially launched their commitment to making their communities more dementia friendly.

The launch was organised by Alzheimer’s Australia and held at Club Taree with with members of the community, businesses, and community services in attendance. 

Merv Gillies, a former carer whose parents were diagnosed with dementia within a month of each other, began the launch with a poignant and honest telling of his own experiences as a carer and the lessons learned along the way. 

Mr Gillies said it was inspiring to know there are people in his own community committed to creating a space that is safe and welcoming for people living with dementia and their carers.

“Thank goodness there are people in communities today trying to understand, trying to make things better and caring enough to make it happen,” Mr Gillies said.

Mr Gillies’ talk was followed by a speech from Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead, who spearheaded the creation of Dementia Friendly Communities steering committees in both the Great Lakes and Taree/Wingham.

Mr Bromhead explained that the steering committees have met with people with dementia and their carers, and are now in the process of going out to businesses to bring them on board to become dementia friendly.

The CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, the Honourable John Watkins AM was the special guest speaker at the event.

Mr Watkins spoke on why becoming a dementia friendly community is important, particularly as Australia’s population is ageing quickly.

“Most people want to live at their home, and that includes people with dementia. Perhaps especially people with dementia, because as everything else gets a bit confusing, as they become a bit panicky about life, as often they do, they hold on to home,” Mr Watkins said.

We want people to stay at home, and that’s why we want communities to be dementia friendly.

The Honourable John Watkins AM, CEO of Alzheimer's Australia NSW

“We want people to stay at home, and that’s why we want communities to be dementia friendly.

“If we can get employers and neighbours and businesses and governments and local governments to assist with that, we’re going to be much more successful.” Mr Watkins said.

Businesses already acknowledged as being dementia friendly are Wingham businesses Ashlea Road Boutique, McKeough's Betta Home Living and Body Strength Health and Fitness, Priceline Stocklands Forster, Great Lakes Tackle Shop, and GBP Partners Accountants and Business Advisors in Taree.

The Manning River Times, the Great Lakes Advocate, the Wingham Chronicle, LJ Hooker Wingham and Lauders Real Estate Wingham are currently going through the training process.

Becoming dementia friendly is quick, easy and free. To find out more about becoming  a dementia friendly business, contact Mr Bromhead’s office on 6555 4099.

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This story Dementia Friendly Communities launch first appeared on Manning River Times.