DEMENTIA MATES, ARE YOU READY?

Australia, like most nations has an ageing population and while longevity is a great achievement, it is also one of the greatest risk factors for dementia.

Dementia is a very real issue for many Australians and each week there are more than 1,800 new cases of dementia in Australia- that’s about person every six minutes.

There are over 350,000 Australians living with dementia right now. It is the second leading cause of death in Australia and the leading cause of disability in people over the age of 65 years.

Dementia is not a future issue, it is here and now, and the need for correct policy and leadership to ensure we can tackle this fatal disease has never been greater.

I’ve worked long and hard to secure new funding for dementia and was delighted last week to announce Labor’s commitment of $25 million, if elected, to improve the lives of those living with dementia, their families and their carers, to help make Australia a dementia-friendly nation and to address the increasing occurrence of dementia.

We will partner with Alzheimer’s Australia to build on the good work they’ve already started through the development of a National Dementia Strategy and the creation of dementia-¬friendly communities across the country.

We need to look past the symptoms of dementia and create communities where people living with dementia, their families and carers feel supported, empowered and included in society.

To ensure we are equipped and prepared to manage the increasing incidence of dementia we need to physically and socially prepare our communities, and we need everyone to get involved– from governments and councils, to the local corner shop and the hairdresser.

Dementia-friendly communities are not created with a one-size-fits-all approach, so local communities will be supported to develop a Dementia Action Plan to identify and make dementia-friendly improvements to enhance access, services, safety and navigation.

To help dispel stigmas and myths surrounding dementia, a dementia-friendly resource and collaboration hub will be established to educate and inform people, and to increase awareness and understanding for those living with dementia.

The introduction of the internationally renowned Dementia Friends program will also encourage public awareness and social inclusion through online and face-to-face dementia information sessions for the public, businesses and organisations.

To address the increasing difficulty finding appropriate respite care for those living with dementia and 1.2 million Australians who care for them, Labor will also invest in trialing two dementia-specific respite models. These respite models will provide social opportunities for those living with dementia and reduce the number of people living with dementia ending up in hospital.

It’s time to change the way we think about ageing and move towards becoming an age-friendly and dementia-friendly nation -  a major undertaking, but something that Australia is well placed to do and well placed to lead.

Mahatma Ghandi said that “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”. People living with dementia are among our society’s most vulnerable and I’m proud to be part of a team that has a strong record in this area and a plan to support these people to live the best life possible.