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Nestled in the heart of Frankton is a team of dedicated people who specialise in providing support and information, throughout the Waikato and Thames Coromandel regions, for people affected by dementia.

With the general population living longer, the incidence of dementia is increasing and it’s vital that we are prepared to provide support to families, and our health and caregiver services.

Since I was appointed as National’s Spokesperson for Seniors, I have been taking an even closer interest in dementia-related issues. We all have a role to play in trying to protect and care for vulnerable seniors, and to support those providing care.

I have enjoyed my association with Dementia Waikato as Hamilton West’s MP.  Some years ago we worked together on a local fundraising activity which saw the Parliamentary Rugby and Netball teams play teams of “Waikato celebrities” in Hamilton. The Parliamentarians won the netball, while the celebrities took out the rugby. That match was played as a curtain-raiser to a Mooloos vs Magpies fixture at Waikato Stadium and some of my Parliamentary colleagues are still demanding a rematch!

Dementia Waikato is now settled into premises in Keddell St. Like all health-related organisations they are constantly competing with other causes for donations to support their vital services.

Dementia Waikato is partially funded by the DHB, and while there are a number of organisations who generously provide sponsorship/grants to Dementia Waikato to support families, they still need to run an annual appeal. Lockdown delayed this year’s appeal but the team are organising a smaller appeal and “Virtual Tin Shake” which will occur mid-July. Donations may be made via the Dementia Waikato website or Facebook page.

Dementia NZ (who supports local affiliates) adopted the magnolia flower as their symbol. The Magnolia Grove (Taranaki) offered a newly-bred magnolia which has been named “Still Me”. Supporters may purchase a plant with Dementia NZ receiving $10 for every plant sold.

There are a number of conditions that can have symptoms which are similar to dementia but are not dementia. If you are concerned, it is important to speak to your GP about what you are experiencing.

Many people get confused between ‘Dementia and Alzheimer’s’. Dementia is an umbrella term and Alzheimer’s is one of over 100 different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and its first main symptom is usually difficulty with short term memory. This may be why people think of dementia as being a problem with memory when in reality there are a multitude of different symptoms that may or may not be experienced by a person with dementia. There are other types of dementia where memory difficulties may not be the first symptoms. Some people may initially have difficulty with their planning and judgment, others may experience increasingly inappropriate social behaviour, and for some using and understanding written and spoken language may become challenging.

There is no cure for dementia but with early diagnosis people can still have a positive input into their future journey and live well with dementia. It is important for a person with dementia to stay social and active. This can be done with the support of family and friends as needed. Dementia Waikato offers one-to-one support because every person with dementia’s experience of symptoms will be unique.

At Dementia Waikato the person with dementia is at the centre of interventions and support. It is important to understand what a person with dementia may be experiencing so that spouses and family can continue to support them at home. Education can help break down the barriers and stigma often felt by people experiencing dementia and those who are supporting them. 

A Neurological Hub is being established at the Keddell St building, with Parkinson’s Waikato and Brain Injury Waikato sharing the lease. Dementia Waikato hold a variety of socialising groups, such as music and art, for Dementia Waikato clients. “Strong and Stable” classes are also held there, designed to help people over 65 years to live a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of falls, and “NeuroTones” is a friendly choir for anyone who has neurological conditions.

During the lockdown Zoom meetings enabled people to stay connected remotely with 40+ people joining Sue and Suzy’s weekly Zoom Music sessions. Christine Martin, Manager of Dementia Waikato, explained “Through phone calls and Zoom we maintained our connection and support to clients.” Christine is proud of the support the team give their clients, and I warmly thank them all.

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