Despite the challenges and array of potential symptoms, Australian academic, activist, volunteer, writer, multi-linguist, public figure and dementia advocate John Quinn, says the biggest challenge of all is often the stigma surrounding the condition, not necessarily the condition itself.
It is this struggle that Mr Quinn will share with the audience as part of the upcoming 9th annual National Dementia Conference in Melbourne on 15-16 May.
“I have written for national newspapers, spoken at conferences, become a member of Dementia Australia’s ‘Dementia Friendly Communities’ Steering Committee, and even conquered challenges like the Great Wall of China Half Marathon and Mount Taranki,” he says.
“But it hasn’t always been this way.
“My diagnosis eight years ago prompted a four-year depression which saw me do little more than stare at the four walls of my home, feeling that my life was no longer worth living.
“I was confronted by memories of my mother who had deteriorated quickly with the condition and became terrified that I was fated for the same future.”
Thankfully, Mr Quinn says he “awoke” from his state of helplessness by the realisation that he was in fact able to better manage the symptoms he was experiencing as a result of his dementia diagnosis and get more from his life.
He replaced self-limiting beliefs with the mantra “dementia is not a lifestyle choice, but I can choose how I live with it”.
This realisation was a turning point in his life, spurring him into numerous projects and endeavors that helped him gain international recognition and a renewed sense of purpose.
Since then Mr Quinn and his partner Glenys have become strong advocates for many of the issues associated with a diagnosis, including research designed to empower and re-enable people living with dementia.
It is this message his will be sharing at the upcoming conference.
“I acknowledge that I am fortunate to have received support throughout my experience of living with dementia, but I believe my four-year depression could have been spared, had I not been typecast by both myself and healthcare professionals into a preconceived notion of what a person with dementia looks like,” Mr Quinn explains.
“Dementia is far from a one size fits all term and I urge healthcare professionals to look at people as individuals; and empower them to exploit their personal strengths.
“A lot of carers often forget that there are many things the person with dementia can still do.
“They disempower them by doing everything for them, which eventually erodes their confidence and leads to a state of learned helplessness.”
Mr Quinn will join a number of acclaimed and renowned speakers for the event, a full list of which can be found online, along with more information about the 9th annual National Dementia Conference.