Sarah, from NSW, says having a more informed media would help in making the community more dementia-friendly. #ItStartsWithYou
“‘You have symptoms normally attributed to dementia’ – in the seconds, it took those words to be uttered, my life changed. The multi-factorial nature of my health issues caused me to lose a career, much-loved, spanning some 40 years and friendships to fall because one no longer has a value, there is no time to ‘waste’ on the relationship. All-in-all, the death of a beloved parent, a cherished companion pet, brain surgery, and the diagnosis itself, turned 2013 into the ‘year from hell’.
My saving grace has been the relationship developed with the Alzheimer’s Australia Port Macquarie team. Renewing a sense of purpose, regarding the future direction of my life, I am involved in a number of committees and support groups. I have also taken on advocacy role including ‘going public’ on my condition.
For me, what most needs to change, is the attitude of the media towards those with the dementia diagnosis. The media needs to become more informed on the topic before writing about it. Seeing expressions in press, defining a very small group of those with the condition, as ‘dementia troublemakers’, ‘ feral geriatrics’, describing them as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’, unfairly stigmatizes community’s thinking on all who have the condition. To then be told, after lodging a complaint that, after all, “we are only talking about a sub-class of patient” only saturates the sense of prejudice, one feels has been unfairly applied.
The media have an absolute responsibility to report fairly, accurately, using relevant definitions, and statistics, but without inflaming community sensibilities. More importantly, when the article pertains to promoting a government initiative, the Government also has a clear responsibility to actively discourage journalists from publicly lashing a vulnerable group of a society in order to embellish the emotional content of an article for their own ends.
Both the media and the ‘powers that be’, instead, might give thought to the late Luis Bunuel’s words (Spanish film-maker) who once said “our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing”; then contemplate, truly contemplate, just how difficult it is to walk in shoes, you would never have thought would have been fitted to you…”