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The launch of the Australian-Indian Aged Care Support Holistic Association
Ageing is inevitable – a fate that awaits us all. As our hair greys, life can show us a different perspective. We often hear how younger and healthier minds ignore or shun the efforts of older people. Do we empathise with these old folks who may withdraw into their shell? Do we really understand how and why their physical and mental health deteriorates?
Society has plenty of stories to tell of aged people craving acceptance and needing greater care.
With a view to offer assistance to families and clients from the Indian subcontinent, particularly those identified with dementia, the Australian-Indian Aged Care Support Holistic Association (AASHA) – a forum on mental health was recently launched at Pennant Hills Community Centre.
AASHA is an initiative spawned under the aegis of the Australian Hindi Indian Association (AHIA) – a non-profit, non-political and non-religious organisation. This group of good samaritans hopes to provide retirement services for seniors of Indian and South Asian origin, an integral part of which will include Dementia Day Care. Emotional and cultural support will also be extended to families whose loved ones are suffering from dementia and age-related health problems, with ASSHA assessing patients and placing them appropriately.
“Our objective is to assist in a smooth transition and bridge the gap between NSW Health Services and senior citizens of Indian and Asian background,” said Bijinder Dugal, director-coordinator AASHA and vice president, AHIA.
Bijender, an Aussie-Indian, is passionate about facilitating culturally appropriate age care services and raising cultural awareness with NSW health providers for the Indian and sub-continent community.
“Through AASHA we aim to reach out to the Indian community in New South Wales with a view to educating them about the health services available and how they can be accessed,” she added.
The forum was declared open by a cutting of the ribbon to launch the AASHA program by Vimla Luthra, a highly respected AHIA member.
AASHA aims to create awareness in the community about dementia and social wellbeing in the elderly, to provide educational resources, and to establish a community contact group for seniors of Indian origin.
Dr Parminder Sachdev, Professor of Neuropsychiatry and Director of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Clinical Director of the Neuropsychiatric Institute (NPI) at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney addressed the forum and spoke at length about dementia and its causes. He also highlighted some of the symptoms of dementia that can go undetected.
“Demystifying dementia and talking to your loved ones about their problems will help and prevent them from getting worse,” he said.
AASHA will endorse health messages in the community and highlight the need for establishing community partnerships to improve the social integration of people living with dementia, mental health disorders and other social issues.
Dr Manjula O’Connor, consultant psychiatrist and founding director of Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health, delivered the keynote address where she raised awareness about aged care. She used case examples and presented workable solutions to the problem of domestic violence for migrant communities.
Over 250 community members, mostly senior citizens, attended the forum and shared their views on various topics that were discussed. Other guest speakers included Sue Tolhurst of the Dementia Advisory Services at Westmead Hospital, Sevinc lzmirli, coordinator of PICAC NSW / ACT and Stephania Bejma, coordinator for Leisure & Life Style Sydney West Uniting age Care.
Dr Hugh Mc Dermott, Labor MP for Prospect and Daniel Mookhey MLC, David Clarke MLC, Parliamentary Secretary for Justice and Philip Ruddock, Federal Member for Berowra, were also in attendance.
The audience were entertained with Hindi songs rendered by Vinod Rajput and his ensemble. Dr Pradnya Dugal, Specialist Radiologist and founder of Bollywood Monsuun Dance group performed a classical Indian dance that left all spellbound.
Dr Tilak Kalra, President, AHIA who proposed the vote of thanks hailed the launch as a rewarding moment for the Indian community to be recognised in the nation’s health system. He urged all to further help in mobilising AASHA’s objectives.
“AASHA calls upon everybody to help raise awareness and spread the message among New South Wales health services, health professionals and multicultural health services to recognise the needs of the Indian community and importantly, the need for culturally based facilities in New South Wales,” he said.