De­men­tia fight gets help

GUIDE­LINE TO LIV­ING WITH DISEASE

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - OPINION -

SINCE Ardross res­i­dent Keith Glance was di­ag­nosed with younger on­set de­men­tia in 2012, the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of his so­cial life has been ev­ery bit as dev­as­tat­ing as the pro­gres­sive loss of his cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties.

Like many of the thou­sands of West Aus­tralians liv­ing with de­men­tia, Mr Glance and wife Wendy have found the stigma as­so­ci­ated with the disease can be far worse than the symp­toms.

Ac­cord­ingly, Mr Glance jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to con­trib­ute to a ground­break­ing new doc­u­ment de­signed to help peo­ple liv­ing with de­men­tia re­main in their homes and con- nected to their com­mu­ni­ties. Guide­lines for the Devel­op­ment of De­men­tia Friendly Com­mu­ni­ties is the cul­mi­na­tion of years of consultation be­tween Alzheimer’s Aus­tralia WA and peo­ple just like Mr and Mrs Glance.

Driven by a deep de­sire to re­main an ac­tive mem­ber of the Melville sub­urbs he has called home for all of his 56 years, Mr Glance and his wife at­tended two com­mu­nity work­shops to voice their views and opin­ions.

“We re­alised that we had ex­pe­ri­enced first-hand the stigma and iso­la­tion that go along with com­mu­ni­ties not be­ing de­men­tia friendly,” Mrs Glance said.

“Friends drop off, mainly be­cause they haven’t had any ed­u­ca­tion.

“It’s not be­cause they’re not good peo­ple, it’s just fear.

“They don’t know how to com­mu­ni­cate with a per­son liv­ing with de­men­tia so the eas­i­est thing is to not en­gage, which is a per­fectly nat­u­ral re­sponse.”

Alzheimer’s Aus­tralia WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Rhonda Parker said the new guide­lines would act as a practical tool to help break down those fears and as­sist lo­cal gov­ern­ments, busi­nesses and com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions to be­gin build­ing de­men­tia-friendly com­mu­ni­ties.

The key out­comes of the doc­u­ment in­clude reducing stigma and in­creas­ing un­der­stand­ing, de­vel­op­ing built en­vi­ron­ments that en­able peo­ple with de­men­tia and im­prov­ing ac­cess to so­cial clubs, trans­port sup­port and per­son­cen­tred care ser­vices.

There is also a fo­cus on pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment and vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple with de­men­tia and en­sur­ing that busi­nesses train staff on how to in­ter­act with cus­tomers that have de­men­tia.

“There are now 33,000 West Aus­tralians di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia and Aus­tralia-wide one per­son di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia ev­ery six min­utes,” Ms Parker said.

“Our mantra is to­mor­row the cure, to­day the care.

“De­men­tia is a pro­gres­sive disease and a per­son at di­ag­no­sis will be at a vary­ing stage of loss of cog­ni­tive abil­ity.

“It’s a mat­ter of find­ing what the per­son can still do and how can we con­tinue to sup­port them to be en­gaged.”

For more in­for­ma­tion visit the web­site www.fight­de­men­tia.org.au or call the Na­tional De­men­tia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

Alzheimer’s Aus­tralia WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Rhonda Parker with Ardross cou­ple Keith and Wendy Glance.

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