Wife of late dementia patient welcomes Toodyay’s dementia friendly town transition

A Northam woman who has felt the impacts of having a family member with dementia is welcoming the announcement that Toodyay is set to become WA’s fourth dementia friendly community. 

The objective of the Dementia Friendly Communities project is to reduce the stigma attached to dementia and instead develop a community that enables and supports people living with dementia to remain active in the community rather than be confined within the four walls of their home.

Genny Budas’ late husband Frank was diagnosed with lewy body dementia in 2008. 

She said the hardest part of the diagnosis was transitioning from being a wife to a carer.

“It’s one of the hardest things,” she said.

“It was very hard because it was new to me. 

“You lose your friendships, people walk 10 miles around you because they might catch it.

“You suffer on your own, even with your own children. 

“You need that support where people understand.”

Mrs Budas said the there needs to be more support available not only for those with the disease but the families. 

“First of all you need to educate the community, you need to educate the whole family and you need to be able to go out to have a break of some sort, and you need medical support,” she said.

There are currently 41,149 people living with dementia in Western Australia.

Staff in local businesses will be educated how to identify and properly engage and assist people living with dementia.

A consultation program to start the planning process will be held on Tuesday, December 11 at the Toodyay Community Centre, 79 Stirling Terrace.

A community consultation will be held from 10.30am to 12.00pm with a local business consultation following from 3.30pm to 5.00pm.

Following the consultation a project plan for Toodyay will be prepared and commenced in the new year.

Alzheimer’s WA chief executive Rhonda Parker said she is delighted Toodyay will be the next country town to embrace the initiative.

Mrs Parker said a dementia diagnosis was often accompanied by stigma, isolation, discrimination and misunderstanding which can impede the person with dementia living with meaning and purpose in the community.

“People with dementia deserve to participate in everyday life, and require support and understanding to do so,” she said.

“Seventy per cent of people with a diagnosis of dementia live at home in the community.

“Dementia is a community challenge rather than just an aged care challenge.

“Through the Dementia Friendly Communities work, participating community members and businesses are educated on the background of dementia, how to recognise symptoms, and how to communicate with a person living with dementia in the community and workplace.”

Mrs Parker said there was a real buzz in the towns of Manjimup and York; the first two WA towns to become dementia friendly communities and great excitement in Margaret River – the third WA town to come on board.

“The outcomes with Manjimup and York were much greater than we could ever have predicted,” she said.

“Staff in local businesses were educated how to identify and properly engage and assist people living with dementia.

“In Manjimup, they introduced a quiet hour at a large grocery chain; the music is turned down and the pace at the checkout is relaxed to make shopping a more enjoyable and less disorientating experience.

“There has also been innovative community-led responses such as opening Memory Cafés in York to improve the inclusion of people with dementia.

“We know in life small things make the world of difference and the people of Manjimup and York have experienced that.”

To register interest in the consultations please contact Layla Riley on 1300 66 77 88 or email dfc@alzheimerswa.org.au.