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The following contribution was written by Dementia Advocate Petra Kreuzer
I spent over 20 years of caregiving for my parents who lived with dementia before they died in 2018. My mother had Alzheimer’s disease and my father had frontotemporal dementia behavioural variant. I am my parents’ only child and became their dementia caregiver.
While caring for my parents I learned how to advocate for them and ensure the best possible care while they continued living in their own home. It wasn’t until the final years of my parents' lives that they resided in a residential care facility in the Fraser Coast regional area of Queensland.
I never knew that Dementia Australia existed when I was caring for my parents, as no one told my family that support was available for us during our dementia journey. I searched on the internet for information and someone that I could talk to. Through meeting others in similar circumstances to what I had been experiencing caring for my parents, I found Dementia Australia.
After my parents' death, I knew that I wanted to do something to ensure that my lived experience with dementia would make a difference to others who are starting the dementia journey with their loved ones.
I filled out the application to become a Dementia Friend and also pursued formal studies in dementia, but I wanted to do more. Dementia Australia approached me to become a Dementia Advocate.
Upon the first anniversary of my parents' death, I grieved the loss of a mother and father. I started my inclusive community Dementia Connection Australia privately in 2019. A few years later, I went public with Dementia Connection Australia to bring people together, promote awareness of dementia, share information and encourage people to learn as much as they can about dementia. Why? Because we all have people living with dementia in our own communities.
As an Advocate, I began my own presentations to the public to create awareness about dementia. For the first time, I told my dementia story to the public. My story was shared on Dementia Australia’s social media, explaining the diagnosis of my parents and my experience caring for them.
I also participate in research surveys through the Dementia Australia Research Foundation. I provide a powerful voice for change and a perspective on dementia by participating in state and federal government discussions. In my own Fraser Coast regional area, I connect with people, businesses and others who knew my parents to create awareness of dementia.
I met a gentleman who I knew lived with dementia who had been seen by an audiologist. The audiologist knew my lived experience with dementia and said you cannot teach that. A lady at the chemist who knew me and my parents said that she was proud of the dementia advocacy that I do and so are my parents.
Every time I meet people in my community here in Hervey Bay Queensland, I always talk about dementia to create more understanding.
Photo: Dementia Advocate Petra Kreuzer
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