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Hopes and dreams – how we can all make a difference to Christmas by Rhonda Parker, CEO Alzheimer’s WA

Alzheimer's WA CEO Rhonda ParkerChristmas brings with it a chance for us to reflect on the joys we have experienced throughout the year. This year my thoughts turn to hopes and dreams.

I am reminded of something I read recently, ‘learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow’.

This quote, by Albert Einstein, reminds us all to be thankful for what we have right now. Christmas brings with it the opportunity to share and reflect on what we have to be grateful for (and mostly it’s the things money can’t buy).  The new year brings a new beginning and the opportunity to look forward and dream.

There is something almost magical about Christmas in the way it can bring a family together. Never is it more important than at Christmas to know we are loved and supported by our family. Feelings of loneliness can be heightened at this time of year, and this also rings true for our loved ones living with dementia.

Simply being present is one of the best gifts you can give to anyone, but especially so for those with dementia. Don’t be uncomfortable.  Reminisce about the past through sharing stories, looking at photographs or playing music. Laugh, touch, share, smile. Cognitive damage may take away some of what you have shared, but the relationship, love and memories remain intact. Tap into them to give the gift of joy and meaning this Christmas.

On a broader scale, we can all make a difference to the care and support of people living with dementia across our neighbourhoods and communities.

We know that each week, there are 180 new diagnoses of dementia in Western Australia; one person every sixty minutes. My hope for the coming year is for this number to decline. The sad reality is this number will most likely increase. As such, it has never been more important to focus on the support and care we can provide to people living with dementia and their carers and families.

The landscape of aged care is changing and we must change with it. My team has worked tirelessly this year to increase the range and impact of our work, both by directly responding to those with dementia and by increasing our partnerships with hospitals, aged and disability providers, researchers and all levels of government.

More people are becoming aware of dementia and donating their time or money towards research in risk reduction and treatments. We are all heartened to hear that Bill Gates has recently donated $100 million of his own money to dementia research. If you would like to make a difference in your own way, you can donate to our Alzheimer’s WA Christmas Appeal by visiting alzheimerswa.org.au/make-a-difference.

Hopes and dreams are powerful, and Christmas is the perfect time to embrace these.  Hope for a world where people living with dementia and their families will feel supported and valued. Dream for it. Work for it.  As Margaret Mead said, never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.  It is the only thing that ever has’.

This Christmas I wish you hope and I bid you to dream. Be present with those you love and face the new year with hope and energy.  I look forward to next year as we hope, dream and work to build the world we want for those we care about.

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