138 million people are expected to be living with dementia by 2050 worldwide (ADI, 2016).
The latest statistics show 90,000 Queenslanders were living with Dementia in 2021 and that figure expected to more than double in the next thirty years to 207 thousand (DA, 2021).
Despite the increasing stats, studies have shown that public awareness of dementia remains low, with an international, systematic review finding only fair to moderate knowledge and understanding, and a common misconception that dementia is a normal part of ageing (Cahill, 2015).
Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in Australians aged over 65 years, and the third leading cause of disability burden overall (AIHW, 2012).
The condition is estimated to become the third greatest source of health and residential aged care spending within two decades (Access Economics, 2009).
Yet, a recent national survey of 1003 adults found dementia was only ranked as the sixth most important health issue, after heart disease, stress, obesity, diabetes, and prostate cancer (Smith, Ali, & Quach, 2014).
While some Australians do not perceive dementia as a health priority, it is a condition associated with fear and negative stereotypes.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) survey found that respondents from 25 of 30 recently surveyed countries felt stigma associated with dementia negatively affected people living with dementia and their carers (WHO & ADI, 2012).
Stigma can adversely affect the physical and mental health of a person living with dementia and exacerbate social isolation and delays in help-seeking and diagnosis (Vernooij-Dassen et al., 2005; WHO & ADI, 2012).
Improving public understanding is a key strategy to improve advocacy and help seeking and reduce the fear and stigma.
Another study has explored the perspectives of people with dementia and caregivers on changes that could be made to the community to enable people with dementia to live well.
The findings identify four core areas of awareness, support services, social events, and activities, and supporting people to engage in the community.
These are shaped by individuals’ attitudes, availability of resources, and the environment. Whilst some of these changes can be implemented at a community level, others require support through policy and infrastructure underpinned by longer-term investment in services.
OUR SENSE OF COMMUNITY
St John Ambulance Qld provides community transport and social support programs which both play crucial roles in enhancing the quality of life for individuals living with dementia.
- This helps by maintaining a persons’ independence as dementia can limit a person’s ability to drive or navigate public transport so the SJAQ service can help the person remain independent and access activities outside of their home
- Social engagement – SJAQ social support programs offer opportunities for social interaction and engagement. These are important to maintain cognitive and emotional health.
- Stimulation and mental engagement – community transport allows a person to continue to participate in various activities such as art classes, or support groups
- Familiarity and routine – community transport services can help individuals stick to their routines by assisting with regular appointments, grocery shopping, and other essential tasks, reducing stress and confusion.
- Safety – St John Ambulance Queensland’s transport and community access services are provided by trained support staff ensuring that clients are safe during their journeys and activities.
- Dignity & inclusion – being able to access the community promotes a sense of dignity and inclusion for individuals with dementia. It allows them to remain active members of their communities, contributing to a sense of purpose and self-worth.
OUR VISION TO CREATE A DEMENTIA FRIENDLY SOCIETY
With an ageing population and an increase in the number of people being diagnosed with dementia St John Ambulance Queensland will continue to work with the community and its clients to ensure that our services are responsive to the needs of our clients and contribute to making a dementia-friendly community.
Organisation’s like St John Ambulance Queensland aims to ensure there is comprehensive training made available to all staff and volunteers on dementia awareness, understanding and communication techniques, as well as tailoring our services to meet the unique needs and preferences of individuals living with dementia.
The provision of community services in a familiar and safe environment contributes significantly to a higher quality of life for both individuals with dementia and their families.
St John Ambulance Queensland has a proud history of providing community support services since 1997. Today, our community services operate Queensland-wide. We pride ourselves on our person-centred approach, and it’s our goal to empower all of our clients to be independent and socially connected.
Published using the information supplied in the following journals: