Celebrities and community leaders are joining together in the fight against dementia.
Australian identity Ita Buttrose AO, OBE, entertainer PJ Lane, actress Doris Younane, Channel Ten newsreader Natarsha Belling and Maxine McKew have come together to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia as Dementia Australia NSW’s inaugural Ambassadors
Well-loved international media identity Sir Michael Parkinson has also joined the program as an Honorary Ambassador. The CEO of Dementia Australia NSW, The Hon. John Watkins, said the program was an important step forward in raising much-needed awareness of dementia and its impact on the more than 250,000 Australians currently living with illness. “We are excited that Sir Michael and these great Australians are so willing to use their personal experience with dementia to help the tens of thousands of people living with the disease, and their families, in NSW,” Mr Watkins said. “We thank them all for giving up their valuable time to help raise awareness and understanding of dementia and we look forward to working with them to do just that. “We are especially thrilled to welcome Sir Michael Parkinson to Dementia Australia NSW as an Honorary Ambassador. Sir Michael is a regular visitor to Australia and we are delighted that he has accepted our invitation to help raise awareness of dementia while he is here. “Sir Michael’s mother had dementia and he has been a passionate advocate for better care for people in hospital and in aged care facilities, most recently, as the National Dignity Ambassador for the British Government’s Dignity in Care Campaign.” Sir Michael said he was delighted to accept the invitation to be part of Dementia Australia NSW’s inaugural Ambassador program. “This is an issue that I hold dear to my heart,” he said. “Everyone deserves to live their life with dignity and raising awareness about dementia is an important way we can help ensure those affected by the illness are treated with compassion, understanding and care. “I hope that as an Honorary Ambassador for Dementia Australia NSW, I am able to help alleviate some of the stigma associated with dementia and contribute to a much greater understanding of the illness and its impacts.”
Ita Buttrose, who has had a long association with Dementia Australia NSW as a member of its Advisory Committee, says she is pleased to have the opportunity to continue her work with the organisation as an Ambassador. “My father 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,” Ita said. “It is important for people to know where to go to get help. No one has to walk the journey alone.”
PJ Lane, whose father popular entertainer Don Lane was lost to dementia last year, said it was an honour to be associated with Dementia Australia NSW as an Ambassador. “My dad developed dementia and I know first hand the difficulties associated with the illness and, in particular, for those caring for someone with dementia,” PJ said. “I will do whatever is possible to promote awareness of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. It is important people realise life does not stop with a diagnosis of dementia and that there is help available.”
Actress Doris Younane, whose mother has dementia, said that that she hopes that as an Ambassador she is able to help promote a better understanding of dementia in the community. “Dementia is so prevalent it’s almost inconceivable that it has remained a taboo illness for so long,” said Doris, well-known from her roles on McLeod’s Daughters, Seachange and the 2009 film The Combination. “It’s not until you have been touched personally by the disease that you begin to understand just how common it really is and how many families it affects.” “Thankfully there is support available for those trying to deal with an ever-changing illness. “I cannot stress enough how beneficial it has been to talk to professionals and counsellors from Dementia Australia who can guide you through the often rugged terrain of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Like thousands of other Australians, Channel 10 Newsreader Natarsha Belling has had experience with people living with dementia and she said it was imperative that awareness of the disease is raised in the community. "Alzheimer’s disease 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,” she said. “It's critical we fund vital research for a cure, but we also need to raise awareness about this debilitating disease, ensuring a growing number of Australians with the illness, and their families, receive the best possible treatment and support.”
Maxine McKew said she was pleased to be able to help raise awareness of dementia and the issues those living with illness face. “I have met many people over the past four years who are caring for a loved one with dementia and have heard first hand of the challenges involved,” she said.