Dementia advocate reminds Wimmera: Your Brain Matters

DEMENTIA advocate Sue Pieters-Hawke believes the Wimmera is well-equipped to help people living with the condition.

Ms Pieters-Hawke visited Stawell on Tuesday and Horsham on Wednesday to talk about dementia and her experiences of caring for her mother, Hazel Hawke, wife of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

Ms Pieters-Hawke is the national ambassador for Alzheimer's Australia and co-chair of the Federal Dementia Advisory Group.

She said the Wimmera was well-resourced compared to some areas she had visited.

She said many people were unaware Horsham had a Cognitive, Dementia and Memory Service clinic, a specialist diagnostic clinic which assisted people with memory loss, or changes to their thinking, and those who support them.

Ms Pieters-Hawke said her work was about challenging how people thought about dementia.

"There is a lot of stigma and ignorance around dementia," she said.

"There are things people think they know that are not true.

"Dementia is very individual. It comes down to what parts of the brain are damaged and how much."

Ms Pieters-Hawke said there were more than 100 causes of dementia, with Alzheimers being the best-known.

She said she hoped to take the negativity away from dementia and help people become better-informed.

"Their experience of the world is no less vivid or worthy to them than ours is to us," she said.

"We need to put ourselves in their shoes and look at how we can behave in a way to support them.

"We all want to feel useful in life and have the sense of self-worth and respect that comes with that."

Ms Pieters-Hawke said Alzheimer's Australia had two campaigns, including a 'Your Brain Matters' campaign to educate people on how they could maximise brain health.

"We have a lot of say in how healthy we will be as we age," she said.

"Think of your brain as like a muscle if you don't challenge it, it is not going to get strong.

"The other campaign is about telling people about the world-class research we have in Australia.

"Compared with our prevalence we are grossly underfunded compared to other research areas like cancer or diabetes.

"Alzheimer's Australia is looking for $200 million into dementia research over the next four years."

Alzheimer's Australia dementia consultant Glenda Hipwell said many people with dementia were afraid to take the first step and seek assistance.

Ms Hipwell is based at Ballarat and visits the Wimmera regularly.

"The service our organisation provides is very important for people in those early stages," she said. "We can give carers the skills to help the person they care for live well with dementia.

"Giving people purposeful and meaningful activities to be involved in during the day is important."

Ms Hipwell said a starting point for people with dementia, their families and carers was to call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

She said people could also visit the Cognitive, Dementia and Memory Service clinic with a referral from their doctor or a self-referral.

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