Pollies put focus on dementia

An estimated 425,416 Australians are living with dementia, according to Dementia Australia.  Without a medical breakthrough, that number is expected to jump to 536,164 by 2025 and to 1.1 million by 2056.

While the medical symptoms are well known and the latest research regularly reported, it is another side-effect – isolation – that is the focus of a Dementia Australia campaign.

Federal Government spending on dementia research is about $60 million per year, but it’s a call from Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt that is grabbing the headlines. He wants politicians across Australia to join Dementia Friends, a social movement aiming to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about dementia.

“I am challenging all parliamentarians – federal, state and territory – to sign up as a Dementia Friend today, to demonstrate support for the 425,000 Australians living with dementia and their families and carers,” he said while explaining that the Government had funded the program as part of a $3.9 million national Dementia-Friendly Communities project.

Mr Wyatt’s hope is that by joining the program, more people will better understand the condition and how it affects the lives of so many people, and dementia sufferers will feel more involved in community life.

Dementia Australia has built on Dementia Friends programs in place in the United Kingdom, other parts of Europe, the US and Canada in developing the Australian version.

Internationally, dementia affects almost 50 million people and, according to Dementia Australia, that will rise to 131.5 million by 2050. The total estimated worldwide cost of dementia in 2015 was $1.03 trillion. To put that in perspective, if dementia were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy.

Stats aside, it is community understanding of the disease and involvement that is a key aim of the Dementia Friend program.

Dementia Australia chief executive Maree McCabe said the program was an exciting opportunity for community engagement.

“By taking 15 minutes to sign up to be a Dementia Friend, you will open the doors to a program that will empower people who live with dementia to remain in their community with the respect and dignity they deserve,” she said.

“We now know from research that 70 per cent of people living with dementia are living in our communities, yet the majority feel a profound sense of isolation and lack of purpose due to the lack of awareness of dementia.”

Dementia Friends is a free online education program that provides access to resources to increase awareness and knowledge of dementia.

Do you know someone with dementia? Do they struggle because of a lack of involvement in the community?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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