Who is afraid of people with dementia?

Article published 25 September 2023

Subscribe to CPSA news

Who is afraid of people with dementia? Many of us, it seems.

The vast majority of people living with dementia live in the community, but it can be hard going because of community response to dementia.

DEMENTIA affects close to half a million Australians. That number is set to double in the next 25 years.

More than 5,000 Australians completed a survey conducted by Dementia Australia to help better understand discrimination for people living with dementia and what it would take to end discrimination.

The findings show that there is a profound urge to exclude people living with dementia from ordinary life.

Here are some of the findings:

  • 63 per cent of people living with dementia believe discrimination against people living with dementia is common.
  • 74 per cent of people living with dementia say people haven’t kept in touch like they used to.
  • 71 per cent haven’t been included in family activities.
  • 80 per cent haven’t been invited to social functions.
  • 84 per cent say discrimination came from friends or other social circles.

In response, Dementia Australia has called for urgent action and commitments from councils, businesses, community groups and leaders in every corner of Australia to take decisive action and be the change that makes their communities more dementia-friendly.

Dementia is the second leading cause of death, so there is a high probability that people who are healthy now will experience the same discrimination and social exclusion as people living with dementia experience now.

Dementia Australia Advisory Committee Chair Bobby Redman, who lives with dementia, said fear of those living with dementia could stem from depictions in popular culture.

“If you have this stereotype of what a person with dementia is and it’s somebody who is violent or aggressive, you’re seeing an extreme,” Ms Redman said.

“However, if you know someone with dementia, you’ll realise that we’re just regular people with an illness. It’s similar to any type of discrimination or stigma – once you know people from that community, they’re no longer scary.”

An estimated 400,000 Australians are currently living with dementia. 70 per cent of those (280,000) are living in the community. To make 280,000 people feel unwanted on such a big scale has a big social impact, not only on the people living with dementia but also their partners and close family.

The first step to change this starts with yourself. Examine what your understanding of dementia is. Ignorance, not meanness underlies much of the exclusion of people living with dementia.

The internet offers a lot of dementia information. Dementia Australia’s website is a good place to start, particularly the very detailed tips on how to make the world a more friendly place for people with dementia.

These fall into five categories:

  1. Raise your awareness and understanding – around two-thirds of people living with dementia live in the community. Learning more about dementia can help you support them.
  2. Include, encourage, empower – create opportunities for people living with dementia to contribute so they stay connected and engaged in their communities.
  3. Communication is key – listen to people living with dementia with respect and an open mind. Body language can show that you are engaged and present.
  4. Make your environment dementia-friendly – people living with dementia often have different sensory perceptions and their immediate environment can have a large impact on their wellbeing.
  5. Look out for people in your community – find ways to connect and introduce yourself to people in your community. Simple gestures like saying ‘hello’ and showing kindness can make a big difference.

Are you interested in learning more about how communities can be made more livable for people with dementia? Read about the work Dementia Australia did with the community in Kiama, NSW here.

For more information please email our media contact at media@cpsa.org.au

Stay up to date with CPSA news and media releases

Our regular email newsletter provides valuable insights and information on topics such as pension entitlements, healthcare, government policies, and more.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.