I know the impact dementia has on people's lives - I've seen it first hand in my own family. My mother and father in -law lived with dementia and my brother in-law with younger onset dementia.
In my role as the Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing I have had the privilege of meeting some truly inspirational and courageous people.
Unfortunately my job has also made me aware of the negative attitudes people still have towards dementia. It is this that fuels my determination to improve people’s understanding of dementia.
Awareness is improving but the diagnosis of dementia all too often results in isolation and the falling away of family and friendships. Did you know that people living with dementia, their loved ones and carers are among the loneliest in the country?
This breaks my heart.
We need to be doing everything we can to create communities where people living with dementia, their families and carers feel supported, empowered and included in society.
There are great things happening in this space – the development of Tasmania’s first dementia village in Glenorchy and the dementia-friendly communities in VIC and NSW are good examples. But we need to do more. Australia is rich enough and smart enough to do more.
This is not a future issue. There are 425,416 people living with dementia in Australia and the number is climbing. By the time the sun rises tomorrow 250 people will join the population with dementia.
The numbers are serious and scary.
With the prevalence of dementia in Australia projected to reach 1.1 million by 2056, there will be no one who will not be touched by this disease.
Dementia is everyone’s issue. We cannot ignore it or walk past it.
So this September during Dementia Awareness Month I urge you to join me in becoming a Dementia Friend. It’s free and only takes 10 minutes.
Being a Dementia Friend is more than wearing a badge - it’s about turning awareness into action, and the small, everyday things you can do which make a big difference.
It can be as simple as sharing knowledge amongst friends and family, making your workplace or local sports club more dementia-friendly, checking in on a neighbour who might have become a bit withdrawn or knowing how to approach someone in the street who may seem a bit disoriented.
I’m immensely proud to be part of a team that has outlined its intention to make Australia the best place to live with dementia.
Under a Shorten Labor Government those living with dementia will not be invisible. They will not be forgotten, and they will not be put in the too hard, too expensive or too difficult basket.
To become a Dementia Friend visit: www.dementiafriendly.org.au
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