Dementia talks provide understanding and hope by Grahame Coote

Filipino communities across Sydney and in the Central Coast have welcomed the “Dementia Café” information sessions hosted by Ella Magallanes Martirez.

At the end of each session, Ms Martirez is swamped by people seeking more information for themselves and their loved ones.

“When people understand what dementia is and the services that are available, they are anxious to find out more. They ask me when can I come and talk to their group?”

These sessions are part of a dementia-awareness program funded by the Commonwealth Government, specifically for the Filipino community, to promote the services and programs available for dementia sufferers, their families and carers.

A survey in 2008 identified the Filipino community as one in which there was a lack of Dementia awareness, which was largely attributed to cultural barriers.

The program is run by Sydney home care provider My Home Living Care (MHLC) which also hosts a “Dementia Hotline” phone service and website to provide additional support. Sessions are run by Filipinos for Filipinos; in a relaxed social environment with food and refreshments.

“When participants understand what dementia is, they learn that there is no reason for any social stigma.” said Ms Martirez. “There are different types of dementia, some of which can be treated with medication. All sufferers can be treated with care and respect, and with the support of the community they and their carers can receive the services that are needed. Programs are available at commonwealth, state and local government levels.”

As important as it is to provide services for dementia sufferers, it is equally important to provide support for their carers and/or their families. Respite care, for example, provides assistance from Filipino home care workers, so that carers can take a well-deserved break and return to their obligations in fresh spirits.

To date, Dementia Café sessions have been run at Sydney Australian Filipino Seniors,Inc. (Blacktown.), Philippine Australian Society for Senior Citizens Inc. (Fairfield), North Shore Filipino Association, Central Coast Ugnay Kabayan and Australian Golden Association Pilipino Inc. (Merrylands) as well as broadcast sessions on SBS Radio.

In April, sessions will be provided at the Filipino Australian Social Cultural Association (ACT), IIlawara and Filipino Multicultural Womens Group, Campbelltown and Region Filipino Community Council Inc. and the Filipino Community of the Hunter Region.

You can find out more about programs for dementia sufferers and carers by calling the 24-hour Dementia Hotline on 0458 880 909.

Mrs. Ella Magallanes Martirez is one of the founding directors of the Philippine Health Care Association of Australia.