Australian children have revealed in a series of videos the impact of having a close relative diagnosed with dementia, in a bid to help other children better understand the condition.
The video series, designed by UNSW research psychologist Dr Jess Baker, is part of a new classroom-based national education program to raise awareness of dementia among 9-12 year olds.
Alzheimer’s Australia’s first national survey of dementia awareness last year found community awareness and understanding of the illness was low. More than 34,2800 Australians are currently living with dementia.
Dr Baker said she is targeting the education campaign at children because they are more responsive than adults to anti-stigma education and their beliefs are not as firmly developed.
“Rather than changing attitudes and behaviours, which is pretty hard to do, the videos are designed to create attitudes and behaviours.”
“I would love to think that we can get to a point in Australia where by the time every child leaves primary school they will know about dementia and understand that a person with dementia is still a person,” Dr Baker said.
Grace, 12, says she took part in the video series in the hope she could help others.
“I really liked talking about it because we don’t often speak about grandma. It was good to speak to an outsider who won’t judge us because if you speak to a friend about it, they might think it is weird,” said Grace.
The classroom-based education program being developed by Dr Baker is aiming to change these perceptions about dementia among children. It features seven short modules, covering topics including: what causes dementia; how does it feel to have dementia; how can we keep our brain healthy, and what happens in an aged care facility.
The evidence-based program is founded, in part, from the findings of focus groups with children, people with dementia and their relatives. It is due to be piloted in two Sydney schools from November.
The intention is to roll the program out in schools across the nation from early 2016.
The videos are a joint project between Alzheimer’s Australia NSW and the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres and were made possible with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.