Dementia - a little support makes a lot of difference.


Many Australians will start to experience the impact of dementia in their family or friendship groups in coming years, if they are not already in that situation. Almost half a million Australians live with dementia and this number is set to double in the next twenty-five years.
Research in the broader community shows that there is a prevailing attitude that people living with dementia are overwhelmingly very old, frail and living in care (Dementia Australia). If we are to prepare for the increase in numbers, we need to clear up some of the current misconceptions about dementia.Dementia 350

People living with dementia can continue to live active and rich lives many years after diagnosis. Many continue to make significant contributions to our communities; they engage, make their own choices and live vital, busy lives.
Dementia has become the leading cause of death among Australian women and is the second leading cause of death across all Australians. Recent studies have sparked calls for greater awareness and understanding of dementia by the general public, based on people feeling isolated and alone. Chronic loneliness can lead to poor mental and physical health. Some of this isolation can be as a result of discrimination – not out of deliberate neglect but, possibly, out of not knowing how to include them.

There are some simple steps we can take to make our parish communities dementia-friendly. My focus here is on communication because losing the ability to communicate can be frustrating for people with dementia, their families and carers. As the illness progresses, they find it more difficult to express themselves clearly and to understand what others say.
• Talk with the person, not the carer. Don’t prejudge their level of understanding.
• Make eye contact and speak clearly, using short sentences.
• Keep questions simple – direct rather than open-ended.
• Don’t patronise. Respect and empathy are important to everyone.
• Noise and distractions (bright lights, etc.) will not help people to focus.
• Be patient and understanding – give time to respond, or compose their questions.
• Provide information in small chunks.
• Use clear and simple signage around church and parish buildings.

Writing and reading skills may also deteriorate. In connection with this, it is important to ensure that hearing aids are functioning correctly and glasses are cleaned regularly. Because background noise is confusing, it is better to turn off the television and have young children come in one at a time to visit people with dementia.

It seems almost every disability and cause has a colour allotted, so people can show their support by simply wearing that colour for a day, or all week! Purple is the symbol of hope for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in general. Check your wardrobe for something purple this week.

by Mary Painta, Disability Contact Coordinator


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