An estimated 425,000 Australians are living with dementia and this number is steadily increasing. By 2025, this number is expected to increase to more than 536,000.
Dementia not only impacts the individuals living with the condition but the estimated 1.2 million Australians who are involved in their support and care.
September is Dementia Awareness Month, which focuses on improving the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers. This year’s theme is Small actions Big difference.
One action Dementia Australia is asking us all to take is to become a Dementia Friend.
The majority of people with dementia live in the community and can often feel socially isolated and wish they had more opportunities to interact with others. If more of us became dementia friends, we could create dementia-friendly communities where people living with dementia could be supported to live a high-quality life with meaning, purpose and value.
According to Dementia Australia, in a dementia-friendly community:
- people are aware of and understand dementia
- people with dementia continue to be active participants in their own lives
- health staff are educated about dementia and treat people living with dementia with respect and empathy
- businesses provide accessible services to people with dementia, including having staff who understand dementia and know how to communicate effectively
- employers provide support for people living with the disabilities of dementia to continue with paid employment
- the physical environment enables people with dementia to get out and about safely
- social groups and organisations are welcoming and inclusive of members with dementia
Making a home environment dementia friendly
Just as making our communities dementia friendly can make a big difference, there are small changes you can make to the home environment that can make a big impact too.
A dementia-friendly environment at home can help a person with dementia maintain ties to what’s familiar to support their independence and wellbeing. A dementia-friendly home can allow easy access and orientation, provide support for daily activities and hobbies while also taking into consideration issues like safety and security.
Dementia Australia suggests considering individual factors before making changes to the home environment. Some key questions include:
- What physical or thinking changes is the person experiencing? For example, difficulty finding familiar items around the home.
- How can I help the person continue to feel comfortable and relaxed at home?
- How can I help the person continue doing things they enjoy at home?
- What can I do to help the person continue to feel valued and included in daily life?
- When is the best time of day to discuss making these changes in the home?
- What aids, cues or prompts such as clocks, signs or a message board may help the person manage daily tasks?
For a full list of home adaptations for a person living with dementia, see Dementia Australia’s Adapting your Home Help Sheet.
Caring for someone with dementia at home
If you are a carer looking after a loved one with dementia, it’s important to ensure you are taking time out to care for yourself as well.
Finding out that a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia is an anxious and emotional time and it’s important that you get support for yourself while you work towards finding the best way to support your loved one.
This can include:
- Joining a support group where you can meet others in the same position as yourself
- Enlisting a home care provider that can deliver some of the specialised dementia care to support you both
- Looking at respite and short term care to allow you to take a break from your caring role when you need it.
For more information and resources, visit Dementia Australia.