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22 February 2010
A photographic exhibition at the Gordon Gallery is providing an insight into the lives of people with early diagnosed dementia and how they see their futures.
The exhibition is part of the ‘Memories for safe keeping’ project being undertaken by Deakin University psychology researchers Dr Tess Knight and Dr Chris King in partnership with St Laurence Community Services and Alzheimer’s Australia. The project aims to break down the negative stereotypes associated with dementia by raising awareness of the importance of communicating the past, present and future identity of a person living with the disease.
“We hope that by drawing attention to how people with dementia maintain their social identity and continue to be involved in making decisions and planning their futures, we will help address negative stereotypes of the disease,” Deakin researcher Dr Tess Knight explained.
The researchers interviewed nine Geelong residents who had received an early diagnosis of dementia. An early diagnosis involves identifying cognitive and functional impairment in the early stage.
The interviews centred on photographs the participants were asked to take of things, people, places and other subjects they felt had been, or continued to be, important in defining who they are and who they planned to be in the future. Existing photographs were also used to communicate their lives before diagnosis.
“The photographs gave a voice to their experiences and provided a great avenue to express how the diagnosis had influenced their lives and plans for the future,” Dr Knight said.
“For the most part the participants were not dwelling on the diagnosis; they were taking it in their stride and celebrating each day as it came.”
Early diagnosis provides an invaluable opportunity for people to talk about dementia and plan for the future, Dr King said.
“Twenty years ago dementia was diagnosed when the person was in the later stages of the disease. These days an early diagnosis means that people have a sense of control over the disease; they have time to talk about it and deal with it before the symptoms take over,” he said.
The ‘Memories for safe keeping’ photographic exhibition is running from 23 February to 18 March at the Gordon Gallery, Gordon Institute of TAFE, with the opening taking place on 24 February at 2 pm.
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