The aged care sector is “united in improving the quality of life for people with dementia,” said HammondCare chief executive Mike Baird in his opening address to the International Dementia Conference 2022 in Sydney Thursday.
Speaking to delegates seated in a conference hall at the Hilton Hotel in the CBD, as well as around 2,000 virtual attendees from around the world viewing online, Mr Baird added: “I think at the end of these two days, we can make a difference.”
Significant change is in the air, he said. “This is a point in time for us as a sector to come together to embrace reform, and to deliver the sort of care that we know is possible – and that we think our elderly deserve.”
As a nation we had “lost the value of our elderly,” Mr Baird told delegates on the first morning of the two-day conference. Australia had also neglected the aged care workforce, he said. “How have we missed these incredible group of people as a nation?” he asked.
“This is really a critical point to me, that our workers and our staff are starting to get recognised for who they are and the work they do.” They deserve not just a fair wage, said Mr Baird, they deserve their work to be valued. The aged care workforce was “special, rare unique.”
Established in 1996, this year’s International Dementia Conference – which has the theme of Brave New World – features health and aged care experts from across the globe, and perhaps most importantly, those with lived experience of the disease.
“Suddenly your life has changed and will never be the same again.
And so it proved in the first session of the day – The world transformed by my dementia diagnosis – a conversation between geriatrician Professor Susan Kurrle and former teacher Philip Bryson, whom Professor Kurrle diagnosed with dementia in 2020.
Dementia is a diagnosis “that suddenly tells you that your life has changed and will never be the same again,” Mr Bryson told delegates. “And that’s what happened.”
Mr Bryson told delegates, after living independently, he now lives with 100 or more residents on the outskirts of Sydney in Castle Hill at the Donald Coburn Centre. “And so everything’s different.”
The most difficult adjustment, Mr Bryson told an attentive audience, was the loss of freedom. “The car is still there. It’s still got petrol in it. But I can’t go just anywhere I want and easily.”
The dementia diagnosis has also been a major adjustment for his family, said Mr Bryson. “Your family are used to you as you are and suddenly you’re not that anymore.” This made him feel guilty, he told delegates “because I’m not being the father I was.”
Speaking of what life was like at the aged care facility, Mr Bryson said: “I was astonished at the patience and care that the the staff show.”
Mr Bryson is one of a number of people with dementia speaking at this year’s conference.
“It’s fantastic that we’re hearing from those living with dementia over the next couple of days,” said Mr Baird. They are “a really important part of this.”
Main: HammondCare CEO Mike Baird delivering the opening address at IDC 2022