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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Calls for re-funding of life-changing dementia-friendly communities program

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The life-changing impact of Dementia Australia’s award-winning Dementia-Friendly Communities program has been highlighted with the release of a discussion paper, Support. Encourage. Empower. Leading the way towards a Dementia-Friendly Community.

The paper demonstrates the crucial role the program has had in improving dementia knowledge, facilitating inclusivity, and reducing stigma and discrimination in the community.

Speaking during a Parliamentary Friends of Dementia webinar, Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said people living with dementia report their involvement in the program has made them feel part of the community.

The program is designed to empower and support individuals and communities to undertake initiatives to increase awareness about dementia and promote social engagement.

Dementia Australia CEO, Maree McCabe

They feel valued, included and have a sense of purpose, she said.

“’Life-changing’ is the way participants have described it,” McCabe said.

“Dementia Australia is calling on the Australian Government and the opposition political parties to commit to recurring funding as an election commitment for the Dementia-Friendly Communities program, past the current June 2022 completion date.”

Established in 2016, the program has grown to support alliances, organisations and initiatives in every state and territory in varying stages of development.

“The program is designed to empower and support individuals and communities to undertake initiatives to increase awareness about dementia and promote social engagement,” McCabe said.

“The one, overarching essential element for these initiatives is for people living with dementia and carers to be meaningful participants in whatever way is possible, from inception to implementation.”

There are currently:

  • Almost 33,000 Dementia Friends
  • 56 alliances
  • 64 Dementia-Friendly organisations
  • Almost 120 Dementia Friends hosts and 40 on the waiting list
  • Almost 25 community engagement program projects.

“The program’s demonstrated success in the nationwide range, scale and diversity of dementia-friendly initiatives makes a compelling argument for continuing this funding to support the growth, development and sustainability of current and future Dementia-Friendly Communities initiatives,” McCabe said.

The alliances, Dementia Hosts and the thousands of Dementia Friends are all playing a role in challenging the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with dementia and their carers.

Maree McCabe

Juanita Hughes who is living with dementia said she felt very strongly about the power of dementia-friendly communities.

“If people living with dementia are given the necessary support, we still have a lot to contribute,” she said. 

“The alliances, Dementia Hosts and the thousands of Dementia Friends are all playing a role in challenging the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with dementia and their carers.”

John Quinn, who is also living with dementia, said being a part of his alliance enabled him to feel empowered and a valued contributor to his community and it has given him a sense of belonging. 

“This, in turn, ensures I maintain my agency, my dignity and respect as an individual,” Quinn said.

“I believe the Government should commit to refunding the Dementia-Friendly Communities program.

“Also, for all parties to declare in their election policy platforms that the 20-minute online Dementia Friends module is mandatory training for people working in all government departments and government agencies, and all people working with politicians.

“This would demonstrate a bipartisan commitment to being dementia friendly.”

Dementia-Friendly Communities is a dynamic, unique program that aims to empower individuals, including people living with dementia, groups and businesses to come together to inspire change in their community.

Some of these groups progress to developing program-recognised alliances which develop Action Plans to meet the specific needs of their own community.

This flexible, program element, enables groups to decide for themselves what the focus should be, and it is this ownership that makes it work.

The communities are provided access to program support, guides and resources through Dementia Australia.

“With 70 per cent of people with dementia living in the community and more than two-thirds of aged care residents with a moderate to severe cognitive impairment, it is essential for everyone in the community to understand more about dementia,” McCabe said.

“There is much that can be done by all state, territory and local governments to support the implementation of dementia-friendly communities in their local areas.

“I encourage all Australians to take the first step towards creating a dementia-friendly community by visiting www.dementiafriendly.org.au, signing up as a Dementia Friend and exploring the variety of engagement opportunities for individuals, community groups and businesses.”

The dementia-friendly communities social movement started in Japan and the United Kingdom in 2010-2011.

The movement is now active globally in 56 countries and includes an estimated 19 million Dementia Friends.

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