Aged Care

Retreat guides the newly diagnosed on living with dementia

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With rates of dementia in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions expected to soar 55% higher than the national average by 2054, a new retreat program aims to support those newly diagnosed and their families.

The 5-day “Rementia Together Retreat” being hosted in Berry this August is designed specifically for people who have recently received a dementia diagnosis and their designated “support partner” – typically a spouse, family member or friend.

The free, government-funded retreat was created by dementia care provider Group Homes Australia in partnership with experts Dr Meredith Gresham and Jackie Pool.

“Getting a dementia diagnosis can be really difficult,” said Catherine, 57, who attended a previous retreat with her husband Steve. “But when you have the right people around you, it changes everything. That’s exactly what the Rementia Together Retreat did. It brought me a whole community of people going through what I’m going through, and Steve was by my side at every step.”

Steve added, “Catherine and I did our research on dementia prior, but it felt like our eyes were really opened at the retreat. We learnt so much, and we could do it together. It completely transformed how we see dementia, and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who has just been diagnosed and their support partner.”

The program is led by Group Homes Australia Program Director Donna Ward, whose own mother’s dementia journey lacked early support. “For most of us, the dementia diagnosis is terrifying for both the person being diagnosed and their family and friends,” Ward stated.

“The Rementia Together Retreat is designed specifically to overcome this fear. It’s been carefully curated to provide real, lasting change in how both people understand dementia; to flip the script on its head, and channel the fear into empowerment.”

By re-framing “dementia” as “rementia” (to return to the mind), the program helps those diagnosed maintain their sense of identity and purpose. Support partners also get guidance on their vital role.

With dementia rates skyrocketing, the retreat aims to provide guidance when it’s most needed after diagnosis. Those interested in a free retreat in Berry can register by 30 June.

Related: Transforming dementia narratives: A glimpse into rementia

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