‘My name is not dementia’

Better Understanding Dementia
with Ruth Thomas

Demented, mad, away with the fairies... I’ve heard it all in my 30 years supporting people with dementia. We’ve come a long way in that time, but not far enough.

My life’s passion is to see improved awareness, support and understanding for people living with dementia.

Right now, 70,000 New Zealanders live with dementia. This will double over the next 20 years.

The World Health Organisation has made dementia a health priority of the decade.

Dementia affects the most complex organ in the body and can be challenging. Being diagnosed with dementia is life-changing both for the person themselves and their family or whanau.

People with dementia all too frequently go unheard and gradually their world shrinks as they withdraw from society. Too often friends stop visiting because they don’t know what to say.

Their family or whanau don’t know where to go for support or how to help. For some, the diagnosis is simply too confronting. 

We need to do better. We need to acknowledge a dementia diagnosis then support the person to live their best life.

As a community, we need to see the person, not the diagnosis. Social connection, having purpose to each day, continuing meaningful activities, and feeling secure and safe help.

This column will open up conversations about dementia and support better understanding. Please email your questions to enlivenplus@psn.org.nz and I will endeavour to answer these.


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