Dementia Action Week is held from 19th - 25th September in Australia, and worldwide World Alzheimer’s Day is recognised on 21st September.
Dementia impacts close to half a million Australians and almost 1.6 million Australians are involved in their care. The number of people living with dementia is set to double in the next 25 years. With so many people impacted now and into the future, it is vital to clear up some of the prevailing misconceptions about dementia.
Many people in our community have experienced dementia or Alzheimer's through a loved one, close friends or family or even themselves. During Dementia Action Week we wanted to acknowledge how it affects our community by spreading awareness and getting involved.
This year’s theme is “A little support makes a big difference”. You might feel like your small contribution might not mean much, but every small contribution can lead to great impact.
Recognising early signs of dementia.
The early signs can be very subtle and not immediately obvious, plus they can vary a great deal between individuals.
Memory loss that affects day-to-day function.
It's normal to occasionally forget appointments or a friend's phone number and remember them later. A person with dementia may forget things more often and not remember them at all.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
People can get distracted from time to time and they may forget to serve part of a meal. A person with dementia may have trouble with all steps involved in preparing a meal.
Confusion about time and place.
It's normal to forget the day of the week - for a moment. But a person with dementia may have difficulty finding their way to a familiar place, or feel confused about where they are.
Problems with language.
Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with dementia may forget simple words or substitute inappropriate words, making sentences difficult to understand.
Problems with abstract thinking.
Managing finances can be difficult for anyone, but a person with dementia may have trouble knowing what the numbers mean.
Poor or decreased judgement.
A person with dementia may have difficulty judging distance or direction when driving a car.
Problems misplacing things.
Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with dementia may put things in inappropriate places.
Changes in personality or behaviour.
Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with dementia can exhibit rapid mood swings for no apparent reason. They can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn.
A loss of initiative.
It's normal to tire of some activities. But dementia may cause a person to lose interest in previously enjoyed activities.
7 tips for dementia awareness and action in your community.
According to Dementia Australia, these are the 7 tips communities can use to change the way we view and react to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
1. Raise your awareness.
Contrary to popular belief, dementia isn’t just about memory. Dementia Australia has many resources available to help you educate yourself on dementia.
- Check out their website at www.dementia.org.au for information, resources and education courses.
- Become a Dementia Friend at www.dementiafriendly.org.au. Sign-up online to access a series of short videos, information and personal stories from people impacted by dementia.
- Sign-up to the National Dementia Library Service for free access to a world-leading collection of dementia-related resources.
2. Include, encourage and empower.
Create opportunities for people living with dementia to contribute. This helps individuals stay connected and engaged in the community. Take the time to find out what someone might like to get involved in and how. This helps individuals stay connected and engaged in the community.
3. Listen with your heart.
Listen to people living with dementia with an open heart and mind. Body language can show that you are engaged and present. How people living with dementia will communicate may change over time and even from day to day. The more you can listen with your heart, the better you can adapt to changing needs.
4. Create moments of joy.
If there is someone in your community who is living with dementia, look for comedy and ways to laugh together. Look out for those moments when the person can engage with you or can react to things around them such as a favourite smell or food, and explore the world through a different perspective. There are also activities which can spark joy such as listening to music or looking at photos.
5. Make your environment dementia friendly.
People living with dementias often have different sensory perceptions, and their immediate impact can have a large impact on their wellbeing.
Floor coverings, layout of spaces, structural features, and signage are all significant design considerations in making it easier for people living with dementia to navigate spaces. So too is the considered use of music and lighting, as both can make a profound difference on how people react in some spaces.
6. Look out for people in your community.
Find ways to connect and introduce yourself to people in your community. Simple gestures like saying “hello” and showing kindness might make a big difference. It can also be helpful to introduce yourself each time you meet with a simple greeting such as ‘Hi Lisa, it’s Peta’.
7. Share the knowledge.
Sharing what you have learned about dementia with your friends, family and work colleagues can help everyone increase their awareness and help eliminate discrimination. An improved understanding of dementia amongst the community can reduce stigma, and make people with concerns feel more comfortable to talk about what they are experiencing and seek a timely diagnosis.
To learn more about Dementia Action Week and take part in raising awareness and championing action, you can head to Dementia Australia’s website here.
Planning ahead with Bare.
Planning ahead is thinking about your future, and putting a plan of action in place so that your choices will be known and acted on if you cannot express these choices yourself later in life.
This may happen if you have a sudden accident, become very ill or develop a condition such as dementia that affects your memory and your planning ability. Planning ahead can include writing your Will, Advance Care Directive, organising a prepaid funeral and writing your final wishes.
Here are some reasons why it’s important to plan ahead:
- You can still have a say in how important decisions are made for you.
- Your loved ones will know what to do if they need to make decisions on your behalf.
- It can give you peace of mind now, so everything is organised and you’re prepared for whatever the future has in store for you.
- It is important for everyone, but particularly for people at risk of, or in the early stages of, dementia, as well as other chronic health conditions.