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New service in Kingaroy provides better care for dementia patients in rural towns

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Caring options: A memory café has been set up in south-east Queensland’s rural heartland, Kingaroy, to support people with dementia and those who care for them.

A NEW memory café in south-east Queensland’s rural heartland, Kingaroy, aims to support people with dementia and those who care for them.

Social isolation and a lack of services are the biggest barriers caring for rural people with dementia, according to a health care specialist.

“Let’s be frank, there aren’t the services in rural areas, and there’s a stigma attached to being diagnosed with the illness,” Centacare’s dementia strategy manager Ann Donaghy said.

Centacare and Lutheran Services have teamed up to open a memory café in one of the main streets of Kingaroy – a place where people with dementia and their carers can meet, once a month, share information and learn from health care professionals.

It also offers carers a chance for a few hours of respite and a chance to chat over a cuppa – which can be vital when dealing with dementia.

Dementia affects more than 400,000 Australians, yet it remains a hidden illness, and especially so in rural and remote areas.

“It’s hidden because people won’t open up about it. People will hide the fact they have dementia as long as they can,” Mrs Donaghy said.

“What advantage is there to say ‘I have dementia’ and risk losing their job and their (driver’s) license?”

Centacare opened its first memory café in Brisbane in February 2017 – with bi-monthly meetings at the Churches of Christ campus in Mitchelton.

Now there are plans to set up cafes in Gympie and on the Fraser Coast.

Mrs Donaghy said there was a big need for adequate services and greater awareness about dementia in rural centres like Kingaroy.

“If you need to have a proper diagnosis of dementia you have to travel to Toowoomba or Brisbane,” she said.

“Can people afford to do that?”

The memory café idea was borrowed from the first Alzheimer Café started by Dr Bere Miesen in the Netherlands in 1997.

He was frustrated that health and social care students were not taught more about the invisible (emotional) aspects of living with dementia, including fear, anger, helplessness, stress and grieving.

There are now 200 cafes operating in the Netherlands and dozens more worldwide.

Dementia is already a key health issue in Australia and one that will demand response from federal and state governments administering health care and NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) funding.

Without a medical breakthrough on the horizon the number of people with dementia is estimated to push above 500,000 by 2025.

Alarmingly it has also now ranked as the second leading cause of death in Australia.

Dementia is a broad term used to describe the symptoms of a number of illnesses that cause a progressive decline in an individual’s functioning.

It greatly impinges upon the person’s normal social or working life because the cognitive functions affected can include memory, language and spatial skills, comprehension, judgement, and attention.

Most importantly, it is not a normal part of ageing but rather a brain disease.

Whilst research goes on, having the memory café available in Kingaroy will offer a chance to exchange information in a relaxed environment, and an opportunity to share stories, whilst enjoying refreshments.

The memory café will operate at The Coffee Lounge, 182-184 Kingaroy Street.

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 28. Bookings are essential.

Contact Centacare on (07) 4162 5096 or email for more information.

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