A diamond in the Royal Commission

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Photograph of Barrie and Grace holding each other and smiling

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety held its first public hearings in Adelaide in February. Among the witnesses to be heard was carer and Dementia Advocate Barrie Anderson.

Barrie appeared on behalf of his beloved wife of 64 years, Grace, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2002. As an advocate for Grace, Barrie generously shared with the Commission his experience of caring for Grace from pre-diagnosis to today where Grace is living with dignity thanks to Barrie’s unwavering love and determination.

During his testimony Barrie cited staffing levels in residential aged care as a critical area that needed attention and highlighted the need for specialist training for aged care workers. He suggested staff recognise and honour ‘the small dignities’ such as people’s personal space and privacy, reminding the Commission that ‘their room is their world’. Barrie’s testimony was honest, heartfelt and enlightening, and all the while his devotion for Grace shone through.

Most poignant was Barrie’s thoughts about the importance and benefits of music. In a moving recollection, Barrie described the difference music makes to Grace when he plays it or sings, and the invaluable ‘eureka’ moments they share as her eyes light up and they reminisce about times gone by. In sharing these special moments, Barrie highlighted the need to place a greater emphasis on the therapeutic benefits of music.

Equally moving was Barrie’s account of his ‘pocket full of diamonds’ – stones that he carries in his pocket and gives to Grace as part of a unique way for engaging in a two-way conversation, enabling Grace to tell Barrie that she loves him too.

In closing, Barrie expressed a desire for people to recognise that Grace has a rich past and an evolving future.

We thank Barrie for having the courage and conviction to share his experience. Barrie has informed the Commission to help shape a better and safer industry for the members of our community who deserve it the most, individuals such as his beloved Grace.

We are so very privileged to have Barrie as a Dementia Advocate.