Leo was 60 years old when he received a diagnosis of younger onset dementia. Prior to this diagnosis he was an organisational development consultant and executive coach. Leo has become an advocate for people living with dementia with a goal to ensure that all people with dementia receive a timely and accurate diagnosis, and that dementia is better recognised and understood by all Australians.
As part of this goal and working within his local community in Tasmania, Leo contacted the local Centrelink office and introduced himself as a person with dementia. He explained that he would be happy to meet all of the front-line staff and to talk to them about what it is like to have dementia.
Leo met with 25 front-line staff from the local Centrelink office and spoke to them about dementia. Leo explained the different types of dementia, the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, gave his personal experience about what it was like living with dementia, and provided tips on how to better communicate with a person who has dementia.
The feedback from the staff indicated that his talk had a big impact and would change the way the local Centrelink office provided services to people with dementia. One of the key takeaway points for them was the knowledge that they should always try to talk to a person who has dementia first instead of instantly directing their communication at the carer.
Two staff members also asked if Leo was willing to talk with one of their friends who seemed to be having cognitive difficulties and was having trouble admitting this. Leo met with this person and as a result they are being assessed for cognitive impairment by a local memory clinic.
This article features in Alzheimer’s Australia’s First Steps to a Dementia-Friendly Australia booklet.