More than two thirds of people living with dementia expect to face some form of discrimination, new research conducted by Dementia Australia has revealed.
Released as part of Dementia Action Week 2021, which runs from 20-26 September, experts say the report illustrates dementia is so entrenched that people living with the disease consider discrimination inevitable.
This year’s Dementia Action Week theme, ‘A little support makes a big difference’, challenges Australians to increase their understanding about dementia and consider how they can take practical steps to make a difference to people impacted by dementia, and help eliminate discrimination.
The annual awareness campaign coincides with World Alzheimer’s Day, held tomorrow.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said the research showed people living with dementia and their carers experience discrimination that can lead to social isolation, loneliness and poor mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, she added.
“We need to change this experience for people impacted by dementia,” Ms McCabe said.
“People living with dementia, their families and carers tell us enough is enough. “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.”
Key findings from the research about dementia, discrimination and COVID-19 include:
- 75% of respondents who identified themselves as at risk of dementia expect they will be treated differently if they are diagnosed
- 91% of people who have a loved one with dementia felt other people don’t keep in touch with that person like 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
More 900 people responded to the survey, including people living with dementia, family carers, family/friends of a person with dementia, healthcare professionals and those not impacted by dementia.
“Research demonstrates that this 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,” Ms McCabe explained.
“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.”
As part of Dementia Action Week 2021, Dementia Australia is sharing simple and practical tips to encourage all Australians to increase their understanding of dementia and learn how they can make a difference. These include:
- Give a little support to a person living with dementia
- Give a little support to a carer, friend or family member of a person living with dementia
- Support healthcare professionals to make their practice more dementia-friendly.
For more information visit discrimination.dementia.org.au to find out how to be part of the change.
The full report can be downloaded at dementia.org.au