When it comes to predicting progress in dementia over the next 10 years, a cure would obviously be wonderful, but unfortunately, I think we’re still a long way from achieving that.
So, if we can’t have a cure, then better care is the next best option. This includes better staff training, and improved technology and care environments, just to name a few.
Here I want to share with you some ideas for where I hope and expect to see change for people living with dementia over the coming decade.
The big distinction between someone suffering with dementia versus living with dementia comes down to the people who are around them. Are they empowering them, including them, enabling them, or disabling them? It all comes down to information and training.
Communities can also work to embrace people living with dementia, whether it be store owners, care workers or family members – everyone needs to learn how to engage with people with dementia.
If anyone you know or care for receives a dementia diagnosis, there’s a responsibility to become more informed and learn about the illness.
One of the things we know about dementia is that the way we express ourselves changes when we develop the illness.
Finding different ways for people with dementia to express themselves, through the arts or anything they find engaging, should be there and supported in the next decade.
The arts and the allied health community need to collaborate on this to explore how it can best be done. The question is, how do we invite people living with dementia into these worlds so that they can still participate?
The recent renewed interest in intergenerational care is great and if it’s working we should continue to do it over the coming decade. All we’re really doing is coming back to the extended family structure of saying older people should be involved in younger people’s lives, and younger people should be involved in older people’s lives.
But we need to be a bit more introspective too. Take stock of our own situation and ask ourselves, ‘when was the last time I picked up my phone and called my grandmother? When was the last time I knocked on my neighbour’s and said g’day?’
One area where I believe there hasn’t been enough improvement in the past decade is in staff training. We have a way to go with this, not just in Australia, but all around the world.
In Australia, we currently have the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in progress, and its findings make me think that as a society we have a lot to be embarrassed about – that we’ve allowed the care of older people to get to this point.
The Royal Commission is making everyone involved in aged care be held accountable. It’s not just about training, or funding or environments – there are many different things that need fixing, but I think we’re going to see big changes in the next decade because the next generation will not and should not tolerate the current situation.
I am very hopeful for people living with dementia in the community in the coming decade. There’s going to be a lot of support for people to continue living at home rather than having to move into residential care.
I think we’re becoming a much more open society when it comes to dementia. Because it’s not visible we don’t see what the disability is. It would be so helpful if people living with dementia felt comfortable enough to say, ‘I have a bit of memory loss, and I’m going to need a bit of support’.
Or carers that can go out with people living with dementia and discretely flag the diagnosis with store owners and banks so people can support them to continue engaging in the local community, without being compromised.
I think that innately people want to be good and people want to help, so if the community can become more empowering and more embracing of people living with dementia or any type of disability over the coming decade, that would be great.
All in all, I feel there’s been a lot of good changes over recent years in terms of supporting people living with dementia and I’m encouraged and hopeful that it will continue over the coming decade.