Time to talk dementia: Anju Kalra

By Ashok Kumar

The Indian Sub-continent Times recently got an opportunity to talk to our own Dementia Consultant Ms. Anju Kalra and look for answers to this problem that is still hidden in our families.

Anju launched her dream organisation ” Dementia Support Group for Indian Australians (DSGIA)” on October 27, 2017 at the Indian Cultural Centre, Consulate General of India, Sydney was of the opinion that people should open up and talk about it and it’s no longer a shame to have a person with dementia in the family.

The IST: How and when did you choose to take up dementia care?

Anju Kalra (AK): I have been working with people with dementia for over 15 years.

Anju has an Associate degree in Dementia Care from University of Tasmania. I always had a dream for a long time, a passion to start my own community organisation where I could provide support to people living with dementia. I want to impart information and I want people to come to these seminars.

The IST: You have been with Uniting have you left them?

AK: I am very much part of Uniting. This is my full time job with Uniting as an Allied Health Consultant for their Retirement Villages across all of NSW and ACT.

The IST: How did you choose Indian Community despite there being so many dementia centers in the country? Is it due to ignorance?

AK: It is a combination of ignorance, shame and stigma. The perception around dementia is still that it is treated as a mental illness. If I look back in my own family, my grandmother had dementia. Indian people do not come forward to say because of stigma and ignorance.

The IST: Do you plan to train few people so that they could identify such people in their own family or in community?

AK: My aim is to empower the community to understand what is dementia and make them understand that there are different types of dementia each stage is different. Message must reach the community through newspapers and other means of communication and I would like them to contact me if they have any question.

The IST: The last time you held a seminar, there were different speaker dwelling on different aspects of the problem. Do you think people who want to be trained this can be helpful?

AK:  The Key here is Capacity building by creating an awareness and imparting information on Dementia . One person every six minutes gets diagnosed with dementia.  The person or their family members may not even understand the signs and symptom of dementia, so there is a need for building capacity in the community in understanding this disease.

The IST: Why don’t you start off with schools.

AK: It’s a good idea. Singapore has taken a lead in this. The bus drivers, their front staff,  staff in the malls, they are trained to recognise the signs of dementia. My aim is to make our community dementia friendly by starting these forums and giving the education and knowledge out.The sooner the problem is recognised the sooner the treatment is done. That is the key.

Thank you for your time.


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About Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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