Be informed to make a life changing difference this Dementia Action Week

IMPACT: Ageism, the stigma associated with dementia, and an inability to report incidents are ways people experience discrimination at work or in the community.

IMPACT: Ageism, the stigma associated with dementia, and an inability to report incidents are ways people experience discrimination at work or in the community.

Tackling a stigma

Discrimination experienced by people living with dementia, their families and carers will be the focus of this year's national Dementia Action Week, which will run from September 16-22.

More than 447,000 Australians live with dementia, with that number expected to increase to almost 1.1 million by 2058.

"Dementia will impact most of us throughout our lives in one way or another, and it is time to bring that conversation to the forefront, and acknowledge the impact dementia has on those living with the disease, their families and carers and across the community," Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said.

"The overarching aim of the campaign will be to encourage all Australians to become more aware of dementia, to get a better understanding of what it is like to live with dementia and to learn how we can support people of all ages, living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers.

"Too many Australians do not know where to turn, and there is a perception in the community that nothing can be done following a diagnosis of dementia. It is important for people to understand that with the right support, information and services this can make a life-changing difference to people living with dementia."

Catching up over coffee

You may not have heard of memory cafes but they are regular meetings across Australia where community members with dementia, and those who help care for them, can connect with others while enjoying coffee, cake and conversation.

Alzheimer's WA CEO Rhonda Parker said memory cafes offered an opportunity for people living with dementia to socialise, feel welcomed in a safe and inclusive environment and make new friends, and were part of a larger, overall effort to "reduce the stigma attached to dementia and instead develop a community that enables and supports people living with dementia to remain active in the community rather than be confined within the four walls of their home".

Ms Parker said 70 per cent of people with a dementia diagnosis lived at home, making dementia a community challenge rather than just an aged care one: "It is imperative that opportunities exist for people living with dementia to have continued engagement in the local community in ordinary, everyday activities, and that they feel safe, comfortable and confident to do so," she said. Contact your state-based dementia organisation to find your nearest memory cafe.

Showing support 

Dementia Australia offers some useful tips for supporting a friend with dementia.

  • Help your friend maintain independence: Support your friend with dementia so they can do as much as they can for as long as possible. Don't take over. Give the person the time and space they need.
  • Listen and give time for responses: Give your friend time to search their brain for the word they want to use. Try not to finish their sentences. Just listen and don't let them feel embarrassed if they lose the thread of what they are saying.
  • Communicate clearly: If you ask your friend questions, keep to closed ended ones (eg. with yes/no answers) or ones with obvious answers (eg.'Would you like to sit here or sit there?'). Open-ended questions (eg. 'how are you feeling?' or 'what would you like to do today?') can confuse a person with dementia.
  • Be realistic: Your friend will not remember everything, even recent events. Don't be offended if they don't remember something special.