Within 25 years, dementia will be the leading cause of death in Australia. As the baby boomers continue to skew our demographics, it is a sobering prediction that in 2030 550,000 people will be living with dementia, rising to around 950,000 by 2050.
There are currently thought to be around 300 people in the Kiama area with dementia, but that is projected to rise to almost 4000 in 2050.
In 2014 Kiama Council was asked to join a pilot project with the University of Wollongong to create a dementia-friendly community. A dementia friendly community is a place where people with dementia are supported to live a high quality of life with meaning, purpose and value.
Initial research found that while it was a good place for people with dementia to live, a local action plan has been devised to overcome challenges around community understanding, access, transport options and infrastructure.
“Our message is that people can live happy and fulfilled lives with dementia,” says John Watkins, CEO of Alzheimers Australia (NSW) and former Deputy Premier of NSW. “But to do this they need to have the support not just of their family but of the wider community.”
Mr Watkins was speaking at a Kiama & District Business Chamber seminar to encourage local businesses to be dementia friendly. His organisation is running a pilot program to encourage this, and has produced a Business Toolkit to assist businesses to implement the small changes that will make a large difference to their customers living with dementia.
Businesses are encouraged to use the Toolkit to work towards being dementia friendly. There is a process for formal recognition. Kiama Community College is the first local organisation to achieve this status, and Kiama Cabs has indicated it will implement the assessment, processes and training required.
Members of the public are also being encouraged to attend a free training program by Alzheimers Australia. The session on the first day focuses on dementia awareness, giving an overview, identifying symptoms, preventative actions and practical communication skills. It is open to anyone. The session on the second day is designed for people who want to be Dementia Friends so they can help to make their group or organisations dementia friendly.
“We hear a lot about people dropping out of community groups once they are diagnosed,” says Melissa Andrews, Council’s Dementia Friendly Communities Project Officer.
“We are looking for people to be trained as a Dementia Friend so that they can share their new knowledge and skills within their groups and keep their valued members involved longer.”
Details: Dementia education sessions will be held 10 and 11 March, 10-1pm, Kiama Anglican Church. To book, or for more info contact Melissa Andrews on 4232 0444