The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety held its first public hearings in Adelaide in February. Among the witnesses to be heard was carer and Dementia Advocate Barrie Anderson.
Barrie appeared on behalf of his beloved wife of 64 years, Grace, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2002. As an advocate for Grace, Barrie generously shared with the Commission his experience of caring for Grace from pre-diagnosis to today where Grace is living with dignity thanks to Barrie’s unwavering love and determination.
During his testimony Barrie cited staffing levels in residential aged care as a critical area that needed attention and highlighted the need for specialist training for aged care workers. He suggested staff recognise and honour ‘the small dignities’ such as people’s personal space and privacy, reminding the Commission that ‘their room is their world’. Barrie’s testimony was honest, heartfelt and enlightening, and all the while his devotion for Grace shone through.
Most poignant was Barrie’s thoughts about the importance and benefits of music. In a moving recollection, Barrie described the difference music makes to Grace when he plays it or sings, and the invaluable ‘eureka’ moments they share as her eyes light up and they reminisce about times gone by. In sharing these special moments, Barrie highlighted the need to place a greater emphasis on the therapeutic benefits of music.
Equally moving was Barrie’s account of his ‘pocket full of diamonds’ – stones that he carries in his pocket and gives to Grace as part of a unique way for engaging in a two-way conversation, enabling Grace to tell Barrie that she loves him too.
In closing, Barrie expressed a desire for people to recognise that Grace has a rich past and an evolving future.
We thank Barrie for having the courage and conviction to share his experience. Barrie has informed the Commission to help shape a better and safer industry for the members of our community who deserve it the most, individuals such as his beloved Grace.
We are so very privileged to have Barrie as a Dementia Advocate.
I would love to see Barrie's speech, was it recorded?
There is an extensive lack of in home services to help people with dementia, especially on the northern beaches area of Sydney. Strangely if you have been in hospital you receive more services than you can get at home!
Well done Barrie. My mum is 95 and been in aged care for just over 1 year now. The care would be fine but she refuses it and continually says she doesn’t need it cause she can do it herself but unfortunately she cannot. The staff give her her space because that’s what she wants and lives her life in her room lonely and miserable but that’s her choice. It’s such a sad existence. I appreciate the fact that the staff don’t force her to do anything. It really is a no win situation in every sense. I visit her as much as I can, she knows who I am but her short term memory and long term memory is non existent now. I do think staff need to do workshops on dementia, just to be able to understand the disease. It’s a terrible disease, so wish a cause and cure could be found!
How very lovely! How lucky Grace is to have Barrie..., Love to them both...
Barry you made me smile...I cared for my Dad for 12+ years and advocated for him every minute of everyday he was alive. He knew he was loved and respected and I was never far from him, making sure :) .Bless You..
It's wonderful to hear Barrie's story. I am so glad he had the opportunity to speak to the Royal Commission. I have been a nurse in aged care since 1979. I love to work with people who have dementia( as my own 88year old father does). I was privileged to do some research with the Aged Care Evaluation Unit last year for 14months. It was sad to see many people suffering with dementia in residential care who had nobody to visit them and who had care workers from all different cultures who didn't seem to have a connection with the residents. I believe there needs to be a lot more training and education for the workers and support for families. From my observation, the Butterfly Program(or the like) needs to be implemented in all facilities where there are residents with dementia. This of course costs money but oh, the difference it makes to dementia care is amazing. I fully support the call for the Government to address these needs and more for our ageing population.