Getting a diagnosis of dementia can be overwhelming. The number of health and medical appointments increase and there is so much to read, consider and plan. It is all to easy to lose sight of the things that are most important to us: the ones we love.
Dementia can change and sometimes challenge existing relationships, particularly between the person living with dementia and their primary care partner. But dementia does not change our need for love and affection. And, despite the significant challenges of dementia, focusing on love can help to ensure that people with dementia are valued and respected.
This Valentine’s Day, we’re reminding you to maintain those loving relationships and celebrate your personal connections. We are also showcasing an important Australian program (Celebrate Ageing), and its various initiatives promoting love and kindness for people living with dementia.
Photograph of Ann Pietsch (above) appears on the Museum of Love. Photograph taken by Lisa White, The Social Photographer.
The Museum of Love
The Museum of Love is a website and program that develops, collects, documents and displays items celebrating love in the lives of people with dementia. It was launched on Valentine’s Day 2017, as part of the Celebrate Ageing program (described below).
The Museum of Love is curated by Dr Catherine Barrett and guided by a Board of people living with dementia and their family and friends including Anne Tudor, Glenys Petrie and John Quinn.
Dr Barrett has worked as a nurse in residential aged care, and an academic, researching issues of concern to older people. She is also an artist and explores the ways in which art and story create momentum for cultural change.
“I love older people so much that I have dedicated my professional career to challenging ageism and building respect for older people,” she said.
Featured in the Museum of Love is the 100 stories project which challenges dementia stigma by raising awareness of local people’s stories from Ballarat. Visit the 100 stories collection online to experience the beautiful images, videos and hand-written stories about people living with dementia and their carers and families.
Other collections in the Museum of Love include:
- The Kiss, with photographs by Lisa White, The Social Photographer.
- Dance, with images and stories about dementia and the importance of belonging.
- The Mirror, with home snaps and captions of people with dementia doing something they love. Ongoing contribution of people with dementia and their carers is encouraged.
Celebrate Ageing is a non-profit organisation challenging ageism and building respect for older people. Celebrate Ageing was founded in 2013 by Dr Barrett with the aim of using inspirational art and narrative to create cultural change. The organisation, and related initiatives, encourage sensitivity to, and understanding of, intersectionality. They also provide training resources to enable community and other service providers deliver more inclusive services.
In 2020, the Celebrate Ageing School was launched with a range of resources designed to increase awareness, acceptance and positive cultural change amongst service providers. These resources include:
- Mr Velvet Ears – to improve understanding of the experiences of people living with dementia, particularly partners and carers, and to assist them in making decisions about support services. The film also aims to promote the development services that are dementia friendly and LGBTI inclusive.
- Our Authentic Selves – to assist service providers understand how the Aged Care Standard on Dignity and Choice applies to Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) people.
- Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – to assist services become more LGBTI inclusive through an understanding of LGBTI cultural safety and the influence of staff values and beliefs on service provision.
Celebrate Ageing also offer the Elder Leadership Academy, with fellowships to older people (people aged 65+) where there are shared concerns with the Celebrate Ageing Program and where resources can be identified.
The Kindness Pandemic
A recent initiative of Celebrate Ageing is the Kindness Pandemic, launched in March 2020 to promote acts of intersectional kindness for people who were doing it tough because of the COVID19 Pandemic.
The Kindness Pandemic became one of the fastest growing Facebook groups in the world; growing at 50,000+ members a day to 570,000+ members in two weeks. With a team of 12 amazing volunteers, the group has helped to establish over 70 local kindness pandemic groups around the world, has had over 40 campaigns and worked with 35 partners.
The Kindness Pandemic Facebook Group was awarded the Most Uplifting Facebook Group in the World in November 2021. They have increasingly incorporated campaigns for and by older people into the project.
The amount of work, resources and goodwill achieved by Dr Barrett (and her colleagues and volunteers) across all these initiatives is phenomenal and inspirational. Explore the websites and resources and learn more about living with dementia in diverse communities.
Helpful articles on the Forward with Dementia website
People living with dementia can read:
Carers can read: