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Canberra
Monday, November 30, 2020
Glavcorp
Glavcorp

Removing barriers to a happy life living with dementia

A trip to the mall was a source of “great joy” to Grace Wood in the later years of her life as she lived with Alzheimer’s dementia.

Her daughter Jill Sheppard, a Canberra nurse, said taking her mum shopping was a whole-day experience.

“It took an hour to get her ready, then we’d get in the car and mum just loved to sing and dance, so she would sing along to the music in the car the whole way there,” she said.

Jill said her mum loved to look at the clothes in the shops; Millers was her favourite.

“She would often try to buy clothes she already owned, and I would have to stop her,” Jill said.

She loved getting out and being around people; little kids and babies were her favourite.

“She would be forever stopping to talk to them and give them a cuddle,” she said.

“She didn’t realise she didn’t know them, but she would always ask them how they were.”

Jill has many wonderful memories shopping with her mum, but said it wasn’t always easy.

Toilets were particularly difficult to navigate, as they only fit one person which made it difficult for Jill to help her mum as much as she would have liked to.

“I would go into the stall with her and get her set up and then leave,” she said.

“But I would have to keep talking to her from outside the toilet, reminding her I was there and telling her everything was okay.

“If I wasn’t quick enough, she would lock the door and I would have to instruct her to unlock it; one time we couldn’t do it and I had to call security.”

Everyday activities like going to the toilet in shopping malls can be barriers for the 6,000 Canberrans living with dementia and their carers.

The ACT Government has recently launched a plan to make the city ‘age friendly’ which includes addressing the needs of people with dementia.

It’s a welcome move for Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe, who said the focus of the plan is on practical achievements that address the barriers older Canberrans have said they face in living free from abuse, staying mobile, remaining socially connected and having good access to services. 

“We recognise and acknowledge the inclusion of creating designated dementia-friendly spaces, including hosting dementia-friendly events, within ACT Government shopfronts and at major events across Canberra,” Ms McCabe said.

“The announcement comes at a time when people living with dementia may be feeling quite isolated, and it is promising to hear of plans to open communities up to be more inclusive.”  

The Plan was developed by surveying the community and conducting consultative forums, which brought together community members and representatives of community agencies and government services to develop solutions to address the barriers that older people face.

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