LOVE is what we all crave but love is a key element in caring for people living with dementia in our communities, says Sue Pieters-Hawke.
“The default social attitude to dementia is outdated and demeaning. When you hear negative talk, you think hang on – all those comments are actually demeaning someone I love and respect,” Ms Pieters-Hawke said.
“Love is the key. It’s not the only thing but love underpins care.”
This is why Ms Pieters-Hawke thinks the theme is so genius for the national symposium on dementia – love.
The Alzheimer’s Australia national ambassador and federal government’s Dementia Forum co-chairman shared her journey as care-partner for her mother, prominent Australian social advocate Hazel Hawke, in the symposium at Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute.
Fittingly, Ms Pieters-Hawke spoke on Valentine’s Day.
Ms Pieters-Hawke told The Courier that while it was courageous for her mother to be so public about living with Alzheimer’s, it was important to raise awareness of the disease.
“She said ‘hold on a second, I have an illness and I wish I didn’t, but I do and the thing is to understand it and I damn well intend to keep on living as much as I can,” Ms Pieters-Hawke said.
“She was open in defiance and open in her refusal to be ashamed.”
Ms Pieters-Hawke said it was important society recognise dementia as a cognitive disability to better promote the human right for those living with dementia to remain an active part of the community.
Ballarat has made a push to become a dementia-friendly city, sparked by the Bigger Hearts campaign in October.
Ms Pieters-Hawke said there had been great changes in social attitudes through her experience alongside her mother and in her mother’s legacy.
“We understand there are challenges but I think it’s changing,” Ms Pieters-Hawke said. “There are still a lot of misconceptions about dementia but there is still a long way to go.”
National Symposium on Love and Dementia concludes on Wednesday.