Australians are being called upon to consider how discrimination impacts the estimated 447,000 people living with dementia, along with their families and carers, during Dementia Action Week 2019, which runs from 16-22 September.
As part of the annual awareness campaign, Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe is asking Australians to complete a short survey at dementia.org.au/survey to give us a national, informed picture of what discrimination looks like now and what it would take to shift that discrimination.
Figures show that without a medical breakthrough, the number of Australians living with dementia is projected to increase to almost 1.1 million by 2058. The increasing prevalence means there will not be anyone not impacted by dementia in some way.
“We know, because people living with dementia tell us, that discrimination exists and that it impacts on their everyday life,” Ms McCabe said.
“That’s why we want to tackle this head-on and we are calling on all Australians to contribute their views.
“Almost 5,000 people have already responded since the survey opened last month.
“If we can inspire the general public, as well as people who have been impacted by dementia, to complete the survey we believe we will have access to invaluable data that will give us a national, informed picture of what discrimination looks like now and what it would take to shift those behaviours.
“Dementia is the chronic disease of the 21st century. We have a responsibility to think differently about dementia and end the discrimination.”
Discrimination can come in many forms. For Tim Granger, who lives with dementia, the change in people’s behaviour towards him has been noticeable since his diagnosis with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease four years ago.
“A lot of people don’t know how to approach me and there’s a misconception that I won’t remember who they are,” Mr Granger said.
“I was recently at an event where I knew almost everyone in the church yet everyone stayed away except one man.
“My close friends are ok and treat me the same, but it’s the wider circle of acquaintances who aren’t sure what to do. I want them to know I am a normal human being and I want to talk to people. I just have a few obstacles now.”
Tara McDonald, whose father Jim is living with dementia, said at her father’s local community group, he was encouraged to use the equipment to his ability and chat to other attendees.
“He tended to enjoy sweeping up and keeping things tidy, so he felt useful, until a member of the group asked him why he bothers coming because he doesn’t do anything,” Ms McDonald said.
“That really took the wind out of his sails.”
This year’s Dementia Action Week theme is Dementia doesn’t discriminate. Do you? The aim is to challenge Australians to think about how their words and actions impact on the everyday life of a person living with dementia.
To launch this important conversation, Dementia Australia will host Discrimination and dementia the health issue of our time on Monday 16 September at the Sydney Opera House, which will be livestreamed from 11:00am (AEST).
It will include a panel discussion with Dementia Australia Ambassador Ita Buttrose AC OBE; Maggie Beer AM, Shaynna Blaze, interior designer, host of Selling Houses Australia on Foxtel and a judge on the Nine Network’s The Block; and Phil Hazell, who is a Dementia Australia Dementia Advocate living with dementia. The panel will be facilitated by Sky News Australia Political Editor David Speers. Find out more and register for the live stream at dementia.org.au/dementia-action-week/launch-event.
During Dementia Action Week, individuals, community groups and organisations are hosting events to help spread community awareness. Find out if there is one near you by heading to dementia.org.au/dementia-action-week/find-an-event.
To coincide with World Alzheimer’s Day on Saturday 21 September, major landmark buildings across the nation will be illuminated in teal to help spread the word about dementia. The full list is at dementia.org.au/dementia-action-week/spotlight-on-dementia.
People are being encouraged to take a photo of the landmarks lit up in teal and share it on social media using the hashtag #dementiadoesntdiscriminate and tagging Dementia Australia. All Australians can make a difference. Find out more about the survey and Dementia Action Week at dementia.org.au/dementia-action-week