Dementia is a pervasive collection of symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, personality change, multi-sensory challenges, and apathy, caused by a number of disorders affecting the brain.
These symptoms can make it very challenging for people living with dementia to carry out everyday tasks.
But as renowned dementia advocate John Quinn describes, it is often the stigma surrounding the condition that can be more disabling than the condition itself.
John, an academic, activist, volunteer, writer, multi-linguist and public figure was diagnosed with dementia eight years ago.
Since his diagnosis he has spoken frequently at conferences, written for national newspapers, become a consumer representative on Dementia Australia’s ‘Dementia Friendly Communities’ Steering Committee, and conquered challenges like the Great Wall of China Half Marathon and Mount Taranaki.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
John’s diagnosis prompted a four-year depression which saw him doing little else than ‘staring at the four walls’ of his home, with a pervasive feeling that his life was no longer worth living.
He was confronted by memories of his mother who had deteriorated quickly with the condition and became terrified that he was fated for the same future.
Thankfully, John awoke from this state of helplessness by a realization that he could take control of his symptoms and get more from his life. He replaced self-limiting beliefs with the mantra “Dementia is not a lifestyle choice, but I can choose how I live with it”.
This realization was a turning point in John’s life, spurring him into numerous projects and endeavors that helped him gain international recognition and a renewed sense of purpose.
Since then John and his partner Glenys have become strong advocates for many of the issues associated with a diagnosis, including research designed to empower and re-enable people living with dementia.
John’s message for the Healthcare sector and people living with dementia:
John acknowledges that he is fortunate to have received support throughout his experience of living with dementia. But he believes his four-year depression could have been spared, had he not been typecast by both himself and healthcare professionals into a preconceived notion of what a person with dementia looks like.
John argues that dementia is far from a one size fits all term and urges healthcare professionals to look at people as individuals; and empower them to exploit their personal strengths.
“A lot of carers often forget that there are many things the person with dementia can still do. They dis-empower them by doing everything for them, which eventually erodes their confidence and leads to a state of learned helplessness”, says John.
John endorses a number of psychosocial interventions, including nutrition, music, meditation, goal setting, social engagement and exercise to enhance quality of life, help rebuild confidence and create purpose in the lives of people living with dementia.
Addressing an audience of medical and allied healthcare professionals, John – who continues to be a lucid and adept public speaker – will expand on and give firsthand insight into how these psychosocial interventions helped save him from depression – at the 9th annual National Dementia Conference in Melbourne, on the 15-16 May 9 2018.
Learn more about the Conference and book your place here.