Help makes big difference

Dementia Awareness Month aims to help improve the lives of people living with dementia and those who are close to them.

Dementia describes symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. It affects thinking and behaviour, and its hallmark is the inability to carry out everyday activities as a consequence of diminished cognitive ability. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dementia can happen to anybody, but the risk increases with age. Most people with dementia are older, but it is important to remember dementia is not a normal part of ageing, it is caused by brain disease.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said the theme for this year’s Dementia Month is ‘Small Actions Big Difference’.

"This September, during Dementia Awareness Month, we will be highlighting the small actions people can take to create a big difference for people living with dementia, their families and carers," she said.

"For Dementia Awareness Month 2018, we are inviting the community to pledge their support by becoming a Dementia Friend to make a positive difference to the lives of people living with dementia, their carers and families, through increased awareness and support.

"Through the Dementia Friends program, we aim to transform the way we, as a community, think, act and talk about dementia. Join us and thousands of others who have already signed up to become a Dementia Friend. Head to dementiafriendly.org.au and start making a difference today."

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Events will be held across Australia to mark the occasion, including the ‘Small Actions Big Difference’ Roadshow, featuring local Dementia Advocates, Dementia Australia Ambassadors and some of Australia’s leading researchers, which will visit all state and territory capitals.

Dementia Australia’s flagship fundraising event is a national collection day on Thursday, September 20. Visit dementia.org.au to find other locally-based events.

TIPS FOR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES

Caring for someone with dementia can be emotionally and physically stressful and different members of the family can be affected in different ways.

A person with dementia will still experience all the usual adult emotions, even though their ability to express them may be affected.

Dementia Australia has a few tips about how you can support a friend or relative with dementia, or their carer.

Help your friend maintain independence: Support the person with dementia to do as much as they can for as long as possible. Remember not to take over and to give the person the time and space he or she needs.

Listen patiently: Give your friend time to search their brain for the word they want to use. Try not to finish sentences for them. Listen and don’t let them feel embarrassed if they lose track of what they are saying.

Communicate clearly: Stick to closed ended questions (with yes/no or obvious answers) such as: “Would you like to sit here or sit there?” Open-ended questions (eg “What would you like to do today?”) can be confusing for a person with dementia.

Be realistic about memory loss: Your friend won’t remember everything, even recent events, so don’t be offended if they don’t remember something special.

Maintain contact: Think of some ways that you can help family members keep up their hobbies or interests. Often family members or carers drop out of activities when just a little bit of assistance could help them stay active.

Do little things – they mean a lot: Help with day-to-day things. For example, if you are out performing a few errands, check with a family member to see if there is anything they need you to do.

Give carers a break: Offer to spend time with the person with dementia so family members can go shopping, attend support groups, visit friends or just have some personal time.

Be specific when offering assistance: Offer practical assistance. Ask the family exactly what they need help with and how you can assist with jobs like gardening, cooking or shopping.

Be a good listener: Acknowledge, support and accept the changes the person and their family are experiencing. You don’t need to provide answers – just be compassionate.  

Learn more and get involved: Understanding dementia will help you be a supportive friend. Attend one of Dementia Australia’s free community information sessions.