Taree Brearley of Clarence Valley Dementia outreach (far right) teams up with Coutts Crossing Croquet for a morning of croquet.
Taree Brearley of Clarence Valley Dementia outreach (far right) teams up with Coutts Crossing Croquet for a morning of croquet.

Coronavirus shines light on dementia experience

CORONAVIRUS has given many Australians a taste of social isolation, but for some people living with dementia, it was already a reality.

Dementia Australia have launched a campaign urging people to ‘keep the world open’ for those with dementia and their carers after many Australians begin to reconnect with family and friends.

CEO Maree McCabe said the experience of living in self-isolation has been challenging and insightful for many Australians and an experience we can all learn from.

“People not impacted by dementia are now experiencing what life can be like being socially isolated when the world is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms McCabe said.

“Often, people stop talking to those living with dementia, staying in touch or inviting them to events.  That’s not dementia, that’s discrimination.

“That’s why we are running this campaign now while people are more aware of what this experience feels like.

READ MORE: Dementia diagnosis sparks croquet crusade in Coutts

Dementia Australia point out on their website that discrimination often happens not out of deliberate neglect but through not knowing how to include people living with dementia.

At a local level Taree Brearley from Northern NSW Local Area Health District Dementia Outreach Service, said while there had been challenges during the pandemic, the organisation was preparing to restart some of its services soon.

The DOS catered to people in the Clarence Valley with a dementia diagnosis and their carers and through face-to-face meetings Ms Brearley is able to connect residents with the right services.

But a critical part of her role was fostering connections within the community through education sessions and monthly Cafe Connections, where those with dementia and their carers could socialise together

She said they had been sorely missed by the community and was looking forward to reintroducing them.

“People with dementia can become more isolated and can benefit from finding a space where they know they will be understood and supported.

“That social connection is really important to peoples wellbeing and that is what they were set up for originally.

READ MORE: Day on the greens for those living with dementia a hit in Coutts

Ms Brearley said in addition to helping people understand the disease, building those links within the community was invaluable.

“Often people diagnosed with dementia don’t know much about it initially and our information sessions (and cafe connections groups) help with that.

“Importantly, they also act as an avenue for people to form their own networks of support.

“It is important for people to talk to others who truly understand what life with dementia is like and the carers really look after each other.

“If there is something happening that they haven’t encountered before sometimes hearing it from another carer can be the best way to work through those issues.

“And just knowing that there are other people dealing with similar things can make a big difference.”

There are a number of other programs and initiatives in the Clarence Valley catering to those with dementia including the forget-me-nots choir and for more information contact Ms Brearley via taree.brearley@health.nsw.gov.au or on 6641 8270.

For more information about dementia and strategies for people living with the disease visit dementia.org.au.



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