Above: Alzheimer’s Australia wants the nation to pop the big Q and ask its federal politicians, “what would you do if your loved one couldn’t remember you?”
By Yasmin Noone
While your nearest and dearest may be dropping subtle reminders that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, Alzheimer’s Australia is shouting it from the rooftops.
That’s because the organisation will use the internationally recognised date of February 14 (next Tuesday) as the basis of its latest Fight Alzheimer’s, Love Australia campaign.
Alzheimer’s Australia has produced over 100,000 heart-shaped campaign postcards (pictured above), all pre-paid, addressed to Parliament House, and ready to be sent to Prime Minister Julia Gillard; Treasurer Wayne Swan; Finance Minister, Penny Wong, and their political counterparts, Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott; Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey; and Shadow Finance Minister, Andrew Robb.
This specific campaign is part of the group’s larger, ongoing Fight Dementia battle, which aims to secure $500 million of Commonwealth funding over five years for demenita and restore dementia as a National Health Priority.
The campaign officially kicked off last year after the federal government announced it would not guarantee dementia-specific funding beyond 2013. Instead it said it would collapse all health-related funding streams together in one large national funding pool, forcing all health interest organisations to compete for cash.
“Dear Prime Minister,” the Alzheimer’s Australia Valentine’s Day card reads.
“What would you do if your loved one couldn’t remember you?
“This Valentine’s Day there are almost 280,000 people living with dementia and 1.2 million who care for them.
“Unless we invest now, hundreds of thousands more will be affected. Please support the Fight Dementia Action Plan this budget.”
The flip-side of the card contains space for the sender to complete the sentence: “I’m fighting dementia because…” This is where the sender includes details about a particular dementia-related issue that is important to them, beside their name and address.
CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees, said he wants the V-day cards to flood “our political leaders’ mail boxes”.
“We needed people to rally behind a new element [of the campaign] that is exciting but one that also gets the message to our political leaders: we need $500 million in the May Federal Budget for dementia awareness, early diagnosis, care and support, risk reduction and investment in research,” Mr Rees said.
“Valentine’s Day is [the] perfect [time] to reach our leaders just before the budget is locked down in the next couple of months.
“The messages that I have seen coming through have been asking our leaders how they would cope without enough care services and support; how they would deal with the uncertainty of not knowing what was wrong with their loved one before a diagnosis was made; and why there is not more investment in dementia research to stop dementia in its tracks.”
Teams of Alzheimer’s Australia staff members, volunteers and supporters will soon be on the streets in every capital city handing out cards to the community.
“We are hopeful that the poignant stories written on each postcard will make a difference.
“It is hard to imagine that politicians will not be affected by reading of the challenges in getting a diagnosis, or the difficulties in getting appropriate care.
“Stories from consumers are very powerful and I am optimistic that they will make a difference and politicians on both sides will listen to these stories and will realise that Australia must act on dementia.”
Mr Rees stressed the need for dementia-specific funding and stated its importance in beating the looming dementia epidemic. He also fought back at government claims that the funding has not been cut, only reorganised.
“The guarantee of funding for the Dementia Initiative has gone and with it, the capacity to plan and have the platform necessary to address new priorities, especially as regards diagnosis and acute care.
“We are pleased that existing contracts continue until end June 2013 but what happens after that? Where is the plan to beat dementia? Where is the recognition of dementia as a health priority?
“The recent health and hospital and primary care reforms have failed to address timely diagnosis, need for better care in hospitals and dementia risk reduction and investment in dementia research.
“With regards to aged care, improvements in access to quality dementia care will not come about unless there is recognition of the special needs of those with dementia.”
Mr Rees encourages those who already have a card to post it to Parliament House or drop it off at a nearby Alzheimer’s Australia office so that the majority of cards arrive at their political destination at once.
However, he said, those who do not yet have a card are still able to get a hold of one and send it at their earliest convenience.
To get cards delivered to your workplace or home, contact your local Alzheimer’s Australia office.
For office locations click here.
Cards will be handed out on Valentine’s Day next Tuesday at the following venues:
Adelaide: Rundle Mall, 10am – 1pm
Alice Springs: Yeperenye Shopping Centre, 10am – 1pm
Brisbane: Queen Street Mall, 10am – 1pm
Canberra: Garema Place, 11am – 2pm
Darwin: Casuarina Square, 10am – 1pm
Hobart: Salamanca Square, 10am – 1pm
Melbourne: Flinders Street Station, 4pm – 7pm
Perth: Karrinyup Centre, 10am – 1pm
Sydney: Sesquicentenary Square (corner of York Street and Barrack Street), 10am – 2pm