People with dementia the loneliest people in Australia

Recent research made public today by Alzheimer’s Australia Tasmania reveals that compared to the general public, people with dementia are more than twice as likely to have high rates of loneliness, and that those people and their carers are significantly lonelier. The research, released during Dementia Awareness Month, has sparked calls for greater awareness and understanding of dementia by the general public so people living with the condition feel less isolated and alone.

Alzheimer’s Australia Tasmania CEO Tony Reidy said the results of the survey, sadly, were not a surprise and highlighted the distress that impacts people living with dementia and their families and carers.

“This research backs up what we are told repeatedly by our clients, which is that when they received a diagnosis of dementia, friendships and some family relationships suddenly fell away,” Tony Reidy said. “We believe a large element of that is because of the general lack of awareness and understanding of dementia; people simply don’t know how to interact with their friend or loved one with dementia. “Treating people with the same respect, kindness, inclusiveness and thoughtfulness you always have is what makes a difference to them. They are still the same person – your parent, sibling, partner, relative, friend – as they were before the diagnosis. They just may need a little bit more time, understanding and support”, he said.

More than 1,500 people took part in the national survey, including people with dementia, carers and members of the general public. The survey also found that people with dementia report significantly fewer relationships than carers, who in turn have significantly fewer relationships than the general public. This was mainly due to friendships falling away, often leading to the experience of being socially isolated. As well, people with dementia are more than twice as likely not to see any friends when compared with carers and the general public, were more than three times as likely not to have a confidant and were almost three times as likely not to have a friend to call on for help when compared with the general public.

“These results are very concerning and they speak to the loneliness that, disappointingly, is so prevalent when it comes to dementia,” Tony Reidy said. “A diagnosis of dementia does not define a person. They are still the same person they have always been, and need to be valued and treated as such. We, as a community, need to improve our understanding of dementia and start to treat people with the condition with the respect and dignity they deserve,” he said.

ENDS - for info: Tony Reidy – Alzheimer’s Australia CEO – phone 0419 361 915

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The national research and Dementia Awareness Month:
Following on from the national research project, this year’s Dementia Awareness Month theme is ‘You are Not Alone’, and people with dementia and carers are being encouraged to reach out for support either by calling Alzheimer’s Australia on the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500, or Alzheimer’s Australia Tasmania on 1300 904 337. Very valuable support and information is also available on this website.
Members of the general public are also being urged to find out more about dementia and increase their awareness and understanding of the condition.
There are more than 353,800 Australians with dementia and an estimated 1.2 million people involved in the care of someone with dementia, and it’s estimated that around 2 million Australians will be living with dementia by 2050.
World Alzheimer’s Day is on Wednesday 21 September 2016. Dementia Awareness Month 2016 is supported by financial assistance from the Australian Government.
Key findings from the Loneliness and Dementia Survey 2016

  • A person with dementia is more than twice as likely to have high levels of loneliness compared to the general public
  • People with dementia and carers are significantly more lonely than the general public
  • People with dementia (compared with carers and the general public) are:
    • More than twice as likely not to see any friends
    • More than three times more likely to not have a confidant
    • Almost three times as likely to not have a friend to call on for help compared with the general public
  • People with dementia report significantly fewer relationships than carers, who have significantly fewer relationships than the general public. This difference is mainly driven by friendships
  • More than 1,500 people responded to the survey

Some key quotes from the survey:
‘There is still such a stigma with the disease. A diagnosis of cancer and everyone rushes in to help. Dementia and everyone disappears!’
‘I’m amazed at how quickly friends and relatives have disappeared when the going got tough.’
‘We do seem to not get as many invites to social gatherings as we used to.’
‘It’s sad that people you know act differently towards you once you tell them about your condition. Some avoid you so they don’t have to speak to you. Yes, I have a dementia, a disease of the brain but all I ask is people treat me the same…just give me a little time to take in what you’re saying and be patient with me, for I am still me.’