Home | Industry+Policy | A little support makes a lot of difference: Dementia Action Week

A little support makes a lot of difference: Dementia Action Week

Someone will develop dementia every three seconds. Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year. But even with those statistics, dementia is still largely misunderstood.

September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day and every year that day is used to raise awareness and break the stigma that surrounds a disease that affects 447,000 Australians.

Dementia Australia marks world Alzheimer’s Day with its own Dementia Action Week, and the theme this year is A little support makes a lot of difference.

A recent survey by Dementia Australia found that three out of four people who live with dementia say people don’t keep in touch like they used to, while 65 per cent say people they know have been avoiding or excluding them.

The survey also found that 63 per cent of people living with dementia who responded believed discrimination is common or very common, while 90 per cent of family members, friends or carers who responded say that their friend or relative who lives with dementia is treated with less respect than other people.

Dementia advocates have said that the prevailing attitude towards people with dementia is that they are old, frail and living in care and that people with dementia can have no independence.

 I’m not invited any more” – Survey respondent.

“In a shopping or commercial situation people who are not as quick thinking as they once were are prone to be taken advantage of and on occasion I have stepped in to address this behaviour,” said one survey respondent.

Seventy-three per cent of respondents say that people make jokes at the expense of their friend or relative who lives with dementia and ninety-six per cent say people act as if they don’t know what to say to someone with dementia.

One carer said that their family member is often ignored, and people will instead only speak with them, assuming that a person with dementia cannot interact.

I don’t feel welcome any more” – person living with dementia.

These misconceptions lead to significant discrimination of people living with dementia and Dementia Action Week aims to dispel any myths and show society that a dementia diagnosis does not mean you cannot live a life that is rich, active and engaged with the community.

“Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people living with dementia is expected to grow from 447,000 Australians today to almost 1.1 million by 2058, with many more families, friends and carers impacted,” said Dementia Australia chief executive Maree McCabe.

“We know many community organisations and health care professionals use this week to raise awareness in their local groups and communities.

“That’s why it’s so important we use this week to raise awareness, across all of Australia, of this disease and the discrimination we know people with dementia face every day.”

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia and in 2016 became the leading cause of death of Australian women, surpassing heart disease.

Currently around 250 people are joining the population with dementia each day in 2020; it is estimated that almost 1.6 million people in Australia are involved in the care of someone living with dementia

Each year dementia costs Australia $15 billion and by 2025 that figure is expected to rise to $18.7 billion.

The number of people with dementia worldwide is set double every 20 years, reaching 75 million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050.

The total estimated worldwide cost of dementia was US$818 billion in 2015, which represents 1.09 per cent of global GDP.

Direct medical care costs account for roughly 20 per cent of global dementia costs, while direct social sector costs and informal care costs each account for roughly 40 per cent.

Dementia Action Week runs from September 21-27, and Dementia Australia will be releasing a new tip each day on how everyone can help people living with dementia live well.

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