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Dementia Action Week asks, do you discriminate against people with dementia?

Dementia Action Week kicks off today, running from 16-22 September, and is challenging Australians perceptions around dementia and people who have dementia.

Dementia Action Week intends to help people understand the discrimination people living with dementia experience and how it impacts them, their families and carers. [Source: Shutterstock]
Dementia Action Week intends to help people understand the discrimination people living with dementia experience and how it impacts them, their families and carers. [Source: Shutterstock]

The national peak body for dementia, Dementia Australia, who organised the event decided on this year’s theme, Dementia doesn’t discriminate. Do you?, which aims to start conversations around how people think of dementia, and to change how people respond and behave around people living with dementia.

Dementia Action Week also intends to help people understand the discrimination people living with dementia experience and how it impacts them, their families and carers.

Maree McCabe, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dementia Australia, explains that dementia doesn’t discriminate who is impacted by the condition, but Australians can choose not to be discriminatory towards the individuals who live with the disease. 

“Our focus during Dementia Action Week will deepen the enquiry into discrimination and dementia… A person living with dementia might be ignored or dismissed in conversations,” Ms McCabe says. 

“Sometimes people, without realising, will talk directly to the carer as if the person living with dementia is not even there.

“Assumptions might be made about a person’s capacity to contribute to conversations, decision-making, whether they can still drive, cook or even continue to work. Friends and family might stop calling or inviting a person living with dementia to social occasions, not out of deliberate neglect but possibly out of not knowing how to include them.”

Dementia Australia is asking the community to complete a survey to give a better idea behind how discrimination for people with dementia occurs, under what context the discrimination happens, and what it would take to change people’s behaviours.

Dementia advocate, Dennis Frost, is currently living with dementia and believes large participation in the survey will provide solid data to enable Dementia Australia to develop a roadmap on changing community perceptions and attitudes.

“With 70 percent of the 447,000 Australians with dementia still living in the community, it is so important for people, just like me and our carers, to remain connected and respected as we go about our everyday lives,” Mr Frost says.

“We really want this survey to challenge Australians and inspire a societal shift in thinking about how their responses impact on the everyday life of a person living with dementia.”

Ms McCabe says research has already indicated that 40 percent of people feel awkward around a person with dementia and found it very confronting talking to that individual with the condition.

“This lack of understanding about dementia impacts over time, with people living with dementia two times more likely not to see friends compared to carers and the general public,” Ms McCabe explains.

Dementia Australia is inviting Australians to get involved during Dementia Action Week and join the conversation around discrimination and dementia.

Do It Yourself Dementia Action Week event kits are available online for anyone wishing to participate and organise their own awareness event.

To launch Dementia Action Week, Dementia Australia is hosting Discrimination and dementia. The health issue of our time, on the 16th of September at the Sydney Opera House.

Dementia Australia Ambassador Ita Buttrose AC OBE will be one of the participants on the panel discussion at the event, alongside others with lived experience of dementia.

To find out more about Dementia Action Week, head to their website here

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