Young dementia sufferer Kate Swaffer inspires others

by Lucy Warhurst, Newshub, 3 November 2016

Ms Warhurst reports on Kate Swaffer, an Australian who was diagnosed with early onset dementia when she was 49 years old.

She’s just been named in Australia’s ‘100 Women of Influence’ and is in New Zealand to attend the International Alzheimer’s Conference.

Kate Swaffer was diagnosed with dementia eight years ago, aged just 49, and was more or less told to give up on life.

“I wasn’t given a sense of hope and future – I was really told to get my end-of-life affairs in order and to get acquainted with Aged Care and give up work.”

Instead she wrote a book called What the Hell Happened to my Brain?, completed a Masters of Science in Dementia Care, started an international organisation called Dementia Alliance International – and is now studying for her PhD.

“It’s very clear that, with support, people are living well and truly much more dignified, productive lives than perhaps was once projected upon us. I think there is a gross underestimation of the abilities of those with dementia,” she says.

Around 60,000 New Zealanders have dementia. That figure will nearly triple by 2050.

The latest World Alzheimer Report warns that countries like New Zealand are unprepared for a surge in dementia cases and need to take urgent action to deal with the issue.

The race is on to find a cure, but Ms Swaffer pins little hope on a magic bullet.

“I would really like to see a balance of research money being spent on improving the care of the more than 47.5 million people currently diagnosed with dementia and our families.”

She says there’s no shame in the neurological disorder, and urges those who are noticing symptoms to get to a doctor.

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