OUR SAY: Mindful acts change mindsets on dementia

Ballarat cyclist Nick Locandro
Ballarat cyclist Nick Locandro


DEMENTIA is not just being a little forgetful in ageing. For those who live with the disease and their loved ones, this fatal disease can be increasingly isolating and lonely as others tend to avoid rather than understand.

The Courier this week told the story of National Road Series rider Nick Locandro, who in three weeks will ride from Uluru to Ballarat in 14 days to raise awareness for dementia. He will do so to honour his dad Sam, an active man who developed an aggressive form of the incurable disease at 54 years old and died after a six-year battle. The Locandros’ experience is not uncommon in Australia, let alone in Ballarat.

Life does not stop with a diagnosis of dementia. While it is a debilitating condition, many aspects of life can still be enjoyed. Such awareness needs to be more than a special month or even a ride. Discussions and action to destigmatise the condition must be ongoing.

What is pleasing in Ballarat is the ongoing work to change the community mindset and most are the seemingly simple, like cafes and hotels signing up to become Dementia Australia dementia friends in a sign of support for Locandro’s ride. In the past couple of months, Parks Victoria has begun plans to create the state’s first dementia-friendly trail. Stockland Wendouree now features a low-sensory room.

Ballarat dementia experts will this week lead programs across western Victoria to upskill frontline healthcare workers in best practice on care and in consultations for people living with dementia. We need to keep encouraging all these simple acts because they can make a big impact in breaking the stigma and promoting social connections for all affected by dementia.

Dementia Australia estimates a new case of dementia is diagnosed every six minutes nationwide and this is on the sharp incline. A projected 35,000 people will be living with dementia in western Victoria by 2050.

The basis for all such dementia-friendly moves comes back to showing a little more patience, being mindful and compassionate – qualities with which we should all treat each other. In our busy time-poor personal worlds, this is definitely worth the reminder.