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Being dementia-friendly means tackling isolation

Social isolation was found to be a major issue associated with a diagnosis of dementia, new findings have shown.

Alzheimer’s Australia’s report Living with Dementia in the Community: challenges and opportunities, launched at the group’s Parliamentary Friends of Dementia meeting at Parliament House in Canberra, included information to help identify priorities for tackling stigma and social isolation surrounding dementia.

“The report’s findings are concerning and confirm that the social isolation that results from dementia is alive and well,” said national president of Alzheimer’s Australia Graeme Samuel, who spoke at Parliament House, adding that the best way of addressing the concerns of people with dementia was to consult them.

“I know from the experience of my own family how real the feeling of social isolation is and how difficult it was for my mother to maintain her lifelong friendships,” Samuel said. “Knowing that more than half of the participants surveyed felt that people avoided spending time with them because of their diagnosis is disheartening, and further justifies our campaign to build a dementia-friendly nation.”

Almost half of the survey respondents said they have trouble communicating with store staff. “This poses a huge problem for the 70 per cent of people with dementia who live in the community, and the 20 per cent of them who live alone,” Samuel said.

More than a third of those surveyed stated that they wish they had more social contact with people in the community. More than half identified fear as a major barrier to going out and partaking in activities.

Alzheimer’s Australia’s appointed consultant on the dementia-friendly communities’ project, Kate Swaffer, who has a diagnosis of dementia, said, “Small actions count towards making a big difference to the everyday lives of people with dementia.

“The main priority for creating dementia-friendly communities, as identified by those surveyed, is to improve access to social activities and opportunities for engagement including employment and volunteering.

“Each dementia-friendly community will look different but may include simple changes like training staff to better communicate with people with dementia, providing volunteering and employment opportunities for people with dementia, as well as providing access to social activities such as sporting clubs and social groups.”

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One comment

  1. So much of the population perception is based on fear and the fact they actually do not know how to respond to people with dementia diagnosis.