Reducing the stigma and raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bob Page and wife Valerie Jenner.
Bob Page and wife Valerie Jenner.

MT Helena resident Bob Page has not lost his sense of humour despite having early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The 59-year-old said he and his wife Valerie have had some “interesting” experiences since his diagnosis four years ago.

People with dementia and their carers say the biggest problem they encounter daily is the negative attitude and lack of understanding about dementia.

“We have certainly had some challenges to face over the last five years, but between the two of us we do our best,” Ms Jenner said. Ms Jenner said her husband’s gradual loss of independence had been the most difficult part of their journey.

A previously active man, she said it was extremely important for him to interact with the community.

Mr Page no longer works in the accounting practice he founded, but remains active around the house chopping wood and looking after the garden.

“Bob walks for half-an-hour in the morning and half-an-hour at night and after losing him a couple of times, we’ve now fitted him with a GPS tracker which has been a life saver,” Ms Jenner said.

The long-standing village residents are well-known faces in their local community.

Ms Jenner said people who are aware of her husband’s illness treat him with respect and patience.

Mr Page belongs to the local Men’s Shed and the Rise Community Support Centre, where he retains a strong connection with the community.

A State Government report released for Dementia Awareness Month (September) identifies “stigma” as a key challenge by the 300 people with the illness, and their carers, who contributed to the study.

The findings support previous research that shows 59 per cent of people with dementia feel shunned because of it.

Rhonda Parker, chief executive for Alzheimer’s Australia WA, said the research supported Alzheimer Australia’s goal of building dementia-friendly communities.

“We need to remember 70 per cent of people with dementia live at home in the community and 30 per cent of those live alone,” she said.

It recently launched The Dementia Friendly Communities Project, an Australian first, funded by the State Government, providing for increasing awareness, advocacy and understanding of what it is like to have dementia.

More than 32,000 people live with dementia in WA and that projection is set to grow over the next few decades as the population ages.

“No one should experience stigma, especially because of a medical condition that already provides considerable challenges,” Ms Parker said.

Key recommendations of the Dementia-Friendly Communities Project Report:

1. Reduce stigma through improved awareness

2. Increase knowledge of dementia in medical professionals

3. Develop dementia enabling physical access and design

4. Increase awareness of customers’ needs with dementia in businesses and services

5. Increase support and information for families and carers

6. Improve access to social clubs and activities for people living with dementia

7. Provide accessible person-centred dementia care and support services

8. Improve transport services_