Cessnock Dementia Carers Support Group meets monthly

UNDERSTANDING: Annette Brown, Marie Davies and Debra Murray from the Cessnock Dementia Carers Support Group. Picture: Krystal Sellars
UNDERSTANDING: Annette Brown, Marie Davies and Debra Murray from the Cessnock Dementia Carers Support Group. Picture: Krystal Sellars

More than 400,000 Australians are living with dementia, and another 250 are diagnosed with the condition each day.

Yet for people caring for a loved one with dementia, it can be an isolating experience.

A support group for dementia carers has resumed in Cessnock, after the original group disbanded a few years ago.

Registered nurse Annette Brown said she identified a need in the community for such a group, and set about to get it up and running again.

Ms Brown said the lack of understanding of dementia can be really isolating for people caring for their loved ones.

"People need to know that what they're experiencing, other people are experiencing," she said.

Thirteen people attended the first meeting at Marthaville in October, and moving forward the group will meet monthly at the Northern Coalfields Community Care Association support centre (in the former Cessnock PCYC building on Wollombi Road).

Dementia is a broad term used to describe a loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and physical functioning.

Alzheimer's disease is just one type of dementia - others include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body disease.

While it's most common in people over 65 (affecting about 10 percent of people over that age), it can happen to anyone.

Debra Murray's husband Glen was diagnosed with dementia three years ago at the age of 60.

Ms Murray said the carers' support group provides a safe place for their carer to share their feelings with people who understand. She hopes it will also create greater awareness in the community.

"The impact on our lives is so extreme - by building carer support, we can build a dementia-safe community," she said.

Ms Murray said she'd like to see people rally around people with dementia the way they do when someone has cancer.

"Dementia doesn't have to be a dirty word. And it's not a normal part of ageing - we need to be helping these people," she said.

Marie Davies - who helped to run the former group for many years - said she was thrilled to see it up and running again, after seeing the difference it has made to people in the past.

Ms Davies' husband of 63 years, Curly, passed away with dementia in 2012.

Ms Brown said guest speakers will attend the group to help "bust myths" about dementia, and it will also give people strategies for caring for their loved ones.

The Cessnock Dementia Carers Support Group meets at the Northern Coalfields Community Care Association support centre on the first Monday of the month from 10am to 12pm.

For more information, call Annette on 0422 142 065 or Marie on 4991 3206.

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