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Dementia Australia and the Consumer Engagement team would like to thank and acknowledge the commitment and extensive contributions of Paul Williams as he ‘retires’ from the Dementia Advocates program.
With fifty years of experience in the computer industry, Paul had roles in systems education, business analysis, and sales. After retiring, he and his late wife Olga enjoyed the chance to explore Australia.
When Olga was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease Paul then became her full-time carer.
During that period, Paul benefited from Dementia Australia’s carer support services, including the library services. During her final years, Olga lived in a Baptist Care facility. She continued to enjoy singing her favourite songs, with Paul playing the piano. As a result, Paul became a volunteer pianist for the facility’s singalongs and chapel services, and continued this role until the recent restrictions due to COVID-19 came into effect.
Paul originally joined the Dementia Advocates program in 2014, following a recommendation from the facilitator of his carer support group.
“I got a call asking if I would like to share my experiences and be involved in advocacy. I said I would be delighted, and filled in the form,” said Paul.
Over the years, Paul has contributed towards 60 to 70 opportunities, from surveys to focus groups, policy submissions, interview panels, resource development and presenting at the Dementia Australia Consumer Summit in 2019.
“From a carer’s perspective at that time, there was not enough information available, nor a clear pathway to access supports and services,” said Paul.
“But, following the Dementia Australia Consumer Summit, things are changing. Dementia Australia’s Quality Dementia Care Action Plan will be embedded in the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s new Aged Care Quality Standards. Dementia Australia’s goal is apt - If you can get it right for dementia, you can get it right for everyone else.”
Paul believes the Dementia Advocates program is the best way to bring front-line experience to Dementia Australia, and influence policy improvements. It has also given him valuable opportunities to meet with, and learn from, other Dementia Advocates.
Paul encourages other people to join the Dementia Advocates program.
“We need other people who understand the cause, for the betterment and wellbeing of people living with dementia. We have the real life data. Share your stories and make a change!”
Thank you Paul for sharing your lived experience and expertise with Dementia Australia and the broader community as a part of the Dementia Advocates program.
As the Dementia Advocates program says farewell and thank you to Paul, they welcome new member Carmine Mercurio, who is looking forward to bringing his unique voice and energy to help improve the lives of people impacted by dementia.
Carmine lives in the southern suburbs of South Australia with his wife Simone, and has two children aged 23 and 17. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease almost 10 years ago, and this was later updated to a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia.
Carmine found out about the Dementia Advocates program when he joined his local Onkaparinga Friendly Dementia Alliance, and someone suggested it to him.
“I got an email and a call from a member of the Consumer Engagement team who explained the Dementia Advocates program to me, and I thought straight away that I would like to give it a go,” said Carmine.
“I want to give people living with dementia and their carers hope that there is life with dementia, and to guide them in the right direction where they can find the help and support they need.
“It also makes me happy that I can give people something in return, and if people learn a thing or two from listening to me then that’s a good thing.”
Carmine says he is looking forward to meeting people and hearing their stories, their ups, their downs, and is particularly passionate about spreading the word and reaching out to people living in country areas.
“Hopefully I can give more than I receive. I want to engage the audience and am thinking of ways to connect people in so they can see the benefits of being a Dementia Advocate. Anyone with the dedication can do it!” said Carmine.
To learn more about the Dementia Advocates program visit https://www.dementia.org.au/about-us/dementia-advocates-program