Aussies uncomfortable around people with dementia, study finds

Almost one-third of Australians say they find it frightening dealing with people suffering from dementia.

The results were revealed in a survey by Dementia Australia.

CEO Maree McCabe says she is alarmed by the revelation that 32 per cent of Australians find people living with dementia frightening – up from 23 per cent 10 years ago.

She says such attitudes hamper efforts to treat dementia and integrate sufferers back into the community, ultimately delaying possible improvement.

“These are devastating findings,” she says. “This fear leads to stigma and discrimination, which can have a real and distressing impact on people living with dementia, their families and carers.

“People may avoid seeking critical medical and social support and become increasingly socially isolated.

“Dementia is a largely invisible disease and what we can’t see, we don’t understand, and what we don’t understand, we are often afraid of and then avoid.”

Ms McCabe says there is also research that shows about 80 per cent of those with a loved one living with dementia felt that people in shops, cafes and restaurants treated people with dementia differently.

“These are our parents, grandparents, friends and neighbours now and in the future; it could be anyone reading this who might be diagnosed with dementia.”

Dementia Australia is calling for urgent action from councils, businesses, community groups and leaders to “take decisive action and be the change that makes their communities more dementia friendly”.

Making a community ‘dementia friendly’ will look different everywhere, but in general Dementia Australia says these are places where people living with dementia are supported to live a high-quality life with meaning purpose and value.

That may include local businesses providing accessible services for people living with dementia via trained staff, employers providing support for affected people to continue paid employment, and volunteering opportunities for people with dementia.

It could also include opportunities for dementia sufferers to remain socially active through choirs, walking groups and sporting clubs.

Dementia is the second-most common cause of death among over-65s. There are about 400,000 Australians living with dementia, and around 70 per cent of these cases live in the community.

When combined with their family members and carers, it’s not unreasonable to think there could be a million people daily dealing with negative attitudes.

Do you know someone living with dementia in the community? Does interaction bother you? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Also read: Untreated high blood pressure linked to dementia

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. I watched my mother suffer from dementia in a nursing home. Stuck in a bed in a room not knowing what was going on around her. A nurse would check on her, feed her, bath her and that is were she spent her final couple of years.
    I don’t think most people in the nursing home took much notice of her other than regular checks on her during the day and night.
    When I visited her she did not know who I was.

  2. I have worked in both nursing homes and community care. I loved being with clients who lived with dementia and one thing I noticed is they often had little other medical issues and so were generally fit physically; and that in itself could be challenging. However, the trick is to live in their world not try to drag them into yours as that’s when the arguments begin. If they say the sky is purple, ask them what shade. I saw many tired, frustrated families as they tried so hard to do their best whilst watching their loved one slip away from them. There are many resources out there, such as Dementia Australia that has a 24/7 hotline that families are not made aware of. Nursing homes are so understaffed that they do not have the capacity to spend the time with clients. These clients have nothing to do and become frustrated/angry. Society & government reveres the young to the detriment of our older generation. It all gets thrown into the too hard basket.

    • I agree with you. Aged care is severely understaffed. Elderly do not get the care they need. It is so sad. And so wrong.
      I used to work In aged care but I felt overworked and underpaid so I left.
      Also I felt I couldn’t give patients care they deserved. And I didn’t want to be a part of that. Unless I could give them good/excellent care I didn’t want to be there. Too upsetting and frustrating.

  3. My wife’s journey started in 2012.
    Our friends were great and helpful.
    When my wife deteriorated ,in late 2019, and needed professional care in an Agedcare facility we found friends and even family visits became almost non existent.
    They just don’t know how to handle the situation.
    The Agedcare home is a community bubble where the sickness is hardly noticed and other peoples families are wonderful and become your social conversations.
    It’s hard for an. Isolated city like Perth to accept difference.
    Policies From Govt and Agedcare Homes are well meaning but in WA the tyranny of distance takes it toll on the lackof meaningfull common sense decisions.policies.
    In our journey I have not seen a visit by any state or federal parliamentary representatives.
    We expect ordinary people to accept Dementure when it’s not even a cabinet portfolio and flicked to a first time Minister who is yet to visit Western Australia.
    I don’t have the answer except to say to families,I spend 70 hours a week helping my loved one and it’s still not enough.

  4. I watched my Mum’s passage into dementia with dread as I had no idea and she had no recollection of having taken her required blood pressure medication. She went into an aged care facility and I initially became frustrated with her drifting from “today” back to her childhood.
    I eventually realised that she knew me as her son at the start of a visit, then her brother after about 20 minutes and finally as her father after about 45 minutes. I went with the flow and had good conversations with her as her “father” and gained a real feeling of life when she was a child. She could accurately describe seeing the WW1 soldiers marching past their farmhouse on their way to ships bound for Gallipoli. She would have been 5 or 6yo at the time. I spent a considerable length of time with her listening to her recollections which has been great help in researching our Family Tree. Just wish there had been more time!

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