The Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker program, rolled out across the country by Alzheimer’s Australia in 2013, has just commemorated one year of supporting people living with the condition.
The Federal Government-funded program has seen 40 key workers put in place across Australia to give people living with younger onset dementia, their families and carers a primary point of contact for support and access to other assistance.
Nationally, Key Workers have already assisted approximately 1,500 clients. In NSW, that number is more than 450.
Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO The Hon. John Watkins said the program had become an integral service provided by the organisation that had given much-needed help to people who develop dementia under the age of 65.
“People with younger onset dementia often face very different challenges to those that develop it over the age of 65,” Mr Watkins said.
“Which is why there is a need for specific services. They face a life of changed expectation and major changes to their health and future, often in the middle of their working lives.
“This program gives some hope to these people and is unique. To have a network of people to give advice, support, facilitate counselling and to link people into appropriate services has made the lives of many who face uncertainty just that little bit easier.”
Melissa McMellon contacted the service after finding out her husband was showing symptoms of dementia.
“I will never forget your first words: ‘Hello, It’s the Key Worker from Alzheimer’s Australia. Welcome to our program. You are my first client’,” she told her Key Worker in a letter.
“I choked up and my eyes filled with tears. It took me quite a while before I would let myself believe that we were eligible to be part of the program. I feared that you would find a loophole that would deem us ineligible and I would be left isolated again.
“But you kept talking and reassuring me that we were eligible. You listened intently, validated my feelings and concerns, empathised with me and encouraged me to keep going. I finally felt supported and no longer alone.
“You have been instrumental in keeping my spirits up and building me with strength to continue along this horrible yet necessary journey to help my husband. Your support and knowledge has been invaluable. I don’t know what else to say except thank you!
“Thank you for helping me navigate my way through the Health System and for being my sounding board. Thank you for helping me to ask the right questions to doctors and specialists. Thank you for your tips on how I can better support my husband.”
The Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker program is a three-year program that has received $16.8 million in Federal Government funding.
To get in touch with a Key Worker, call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
Congratulations! I believe the relatively new interest in those of us living with YOD by aged care service providers, is a direct result of this program and the advocacy and efforts of the key workers. Thank you.