Celebrities take on the challenge in the fight against dementia

Celebrities and community leaders are joining together in the fight against dementia.

Hawthorn Football Club’s Sam Mitchell; acclaimed singer, songwriter Mark Seymour; legendary actors Terence Donovan and Anne Phelan; radio presenter and media personality Denis Walter; former leader of the Australian Democrats, Lyn Allison, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic Chief Medical Advisor, Associate Professor Michael Woodward; business leader and Alzheimer’s Australia Vic Chair, Graeme Samuel AC have together committed to raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia as Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s inaugural Ambassadors.

 The CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, Maree McCabe, said the Ambassador program is an important step forward in raising much-needed awareness of dementia and its impact on the more than 330,000 Australians currently living with illness.

"We are honoured that these great Australians are willing to share their personal experience and knowledge about dementia to support the role of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic as the peak body in Victoria advocating for people living with dementia their families and carers," Ms McCabe said.

"We thank them all for their commitment to help raise awareness and understanding of dementia in the community and we look forward to working with them to do just that.

Sam Mitchell will officially step into his new role at the Alzheimer’s Australia Vic charity dinner A Night To Remember on Saturday 17 May at the RACV City Club.

"Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often misunderstood in our community. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s around the time we were due to have twins."

"Valda passed away before our little girls celebrated their third birthdays. Prior to these events I was naïve to many of the issues surrounding dementia.

"Everyone deserves to live their life with dignity and raising awareness about dementia is a small way of helping those affected with the illness to be treated with compassion, understanding and care.

"As an Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, I hope to help both the people living with dementia and contribute to much greater support for those that have loved ones dealing with the disease," Sam said.

Mark Seymour, former lead singer of Hunters and Collectors has already contributed in his role at a number of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic events and in the media. Mark wrote the song Classrooms and Kitchens about his mother Paula who is living with dementia.

"I am passionate about sharing my personal experience to help others to realise they are not alone. Support and information is available through Alzheimer’s Australia Vic and I encourage anyone with concerns for themselves or someone special to them to contact the organisation.

"As it is for all chronic diseases, accessing information, medical and counselling support early in your experience will improve the quality of life and care for the person living with dementia, their families and carers," Mark said.

Terence Donovan, currently portraying a character in Network Ten’s Neighbours who is living with dementia, joined Alzheimer’s Australia Vic as Driving and Dementia Ambassador for the launch of Changed Conditions Ahead in February this year.

"Like most Australians, I have encountered dementia among my loved ones. I know from experience that a diagnosis can not only impact on the individual but also their families and carers," Terence said.

Anne Phelan is currently appearing on Seven’s Winners and Losers.

"I am honoured to have been asked to be part of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s Ambassador Program.

"Having experienced dementia in my family and through caring for friends I know it is vital to promote a better understanding of dementia in the community.

"Alzheimer’s Australia Vic supports people living with dementia and the carers, for both, it is important that this service is available," Anne said.

Denis Walter was one of the first celebrities to sign up to be a Dementia Champion for the launch of the Alzheimer’s Australia Fight Dementia Campaign in 2011.

"It is imperative that awareness of the disease is raised in the community.

"Dementia can not only affect the elderly, it can also strike the young. As the people with dementia are affected, so are their loved ones and family.

"It's critical we fund vital research for a cure, but we also need to raise awareness about this life limiting disease, ensuring a growing number of Australians with the illness, and their families, receive the best possible treatment and support," Denis said.

Graeme Samuel AC was appointed Chair at Alzheimer’s Australia Vic in June 2013. He and his family have had a long association supporting the charity.

"My mother had dementia so I am all too aware of the impact it has not only on the person with dementia, but also on those close to them.

"It is important for people to know where to go to get help. No one has to walk the journey Alone," Mr Samuel said, speaking on behalf of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s Ms Allison and Assoc Prof Woodward.

Sam Mitchell, Terence Donovan and Graeme Samuel will step out in their role at the annual Alzheimer’s Australia Vic A Night To Remember charity dinner on Saturday, 17 May at the RACV City Club, Melbourne.