Stigma surrounding dementia today as widespread as ever: Ita Buttrose
11 July, 2012
More than half of Australians mistakenly attribute the symptoms of dementia to being a normal part of ageing, according to a Newspoll survey released today.
Ita Buttrose, President of Alzheimer’s Australia, speaking at the National Press Club, said the survey found that nearly one in five Australians said that if a family member had memory loss or confusion they would think it was a natural part of ageing and 10 per cent of people aged 19-34 had never heard of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
Ms Buttrose said these Newspoll results, released by Eli Lilly, reflect a lack of awareness and stigma surrounding dementia that can lead to social exclusion not only for people with dementia, but also their carers and families, along with delays in seeking medical help.
Also release today a study, Exploring dementia and stigma beliefs – a pilot study of Australian adults aged 40 to 65 years, from the Centre of Health Initiatives at University of Wollongong showed equally concerning results.
“The findings of the study suggest that many people hold negative attitudes towards people with dementia. Of the 616 people who responded to the survey, over half indicated that people with dementia can not be expected to have a meaningful conversation.
“Over a third said that people with dementia could be irritating and one in ten indicated that they would avoid spending time with a person with dementia.
“Instead of supporting people at a time of great difficulty and challenge, the instinct for many in our community is to turn their back and walk away.” Ms Buttrose said.
“There are the personal memories of my Dad doing things that were quite out of character, both amusing and sad.
“But the enduring memories for me are those of how cruel we are as a society to people with dementia and as a consequence to their families and those who love them.
“A diagnosis of dementia brings with it social isolation and a sense of shame for the individual.”
Ms Buttrose said change would only come through a greater awareness and understanding of dementia and a national approach to promoting awareness.
“The Living Longer. Living Better package set the scene for significant reform in aged care and a new determination to tackle dementia both as a health and aged care issue,” Ms Buttrose said.
“We want to get the message across that as a society we can beat dementia in the same way we have tackled HIV/Aids, cancer and heart disease.
“The Government has yet to address the serious inequity in research funding. Dementia research is grossly underfunded in relation to health and care costs, disability burden and prevalence compared to other chronic diseases.”
Alzheimer’s Australia is advocating for an increase of $200 million government investment for research which would be equivalent of 1% of the total cost of care.
“And what could be more positive than the next stage of our campaign to invest in research and start working now towards a world without dementia,” Ms Buttrose said.
“It is an ambitious goal, but one which I know is worth fighting for."
For a copy of this media release, click here.
For a copy of the speech, click here.
For a copy of the Stigma Report, click here.
For a copy of the newspoll results, click here.