It’s Dementia Action Week, and recent research from Dementia Australia has identified that discrimination against people living with dementia remains real and entrenched.
CEO of Dementia Australia, Maree McCabe AM, said the newly released report Discrimination and Dementia – Enough is Enough shows that people living with dementia and their carers experience discrimination that can lead to social isolation, loneliness and poor mental health. COVID-19 has made these things worse.
‘We need to change this experience for people impacted by dementia. People living with dementia, their families and carers tell us enough is enough,’ said Ms McCabe.
‘Now more than ever we need to shift our thinking around dementia to stop adding discrimination to the symptoms that people with dementia experience. The good news is a little support does make a big difference and there are small actions we can all take to make a change for the better,’ she said.
Bobby Redman lives with dementia and has shared her story as part of this year’s Dementia Action Week campaign. ‘Although discrimination is basically about ignorance, it doesn’t take away the sting,’ she said.
‘Just because I have dementia it doesn’t mean I am stupid. I have not lost my knowledge and life experience; it is just that I sometimes have difficulty in accessing the details,’ said Ms Redman.
Key findings from the research include:
- 75% of respondents who identified themselves as at risk of dementia indicated that they expect they will be treated differently if they are diagnosed.
- 91% of people who have a loved one with dementia indicated other people don’t keep in touch with that person as they used to.
- 87% of people living with dementia surveyed felt people patronise them and treat them as if they are not smart.
- 65% of people surveyed who live with dementia and 58% of those who feel at risk of dementia believe discrimination towards people with dementia is common or very common.
- More than 90% of professionals, volunteers and people not impacted by dementia agree that people living with dementia are likely to be treated differently once they are diagnosed.
- 43% of people living with dementia and 38% of family carers had postponed health or medical visits due to COVID-19 restrictions.
- 34% of family carers and 30% of people living with dementia indicated their physical wellbeing had declined due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Discrimination has far-reaching effects
Maree McCabe said the new report demonstrates that discriminatory behaviour impacts all aspects of a person’s life; from the way they engage socially to the types of services they access and receive, and the way their human rights are interpreted.
‘This disempowerment leads to individuals being less likely to identify or fight for their fundamental human rights and sadly, it demonstrates that we have a long way to go to truly tackle discrimination against people impacted by dementia,’ said Ms McCabe.
‘This year’s Dementia Action Week theme, “A little support makes a big difference”, is a challenge to all Australians to increase their understanding about dementia and how they can make a difference to the lives of people around them who are impacted – and help to eliminate discrimination,’ she said.
Dementia Australia is sharing simple and practical tips to improve the situation. Head to discrimination.dementia.org.au to find out more about how you can be part of the change.