22 February 2012

Kate SwafferUniSA Honours student, Kate Swaffer, will be making a touching Adelaide Fringe debut on Saturday when she presents her show ‘My Unseen Disappearing World’ encapsulating her battle with early onset dementia.

At 53, Kate has been living with the knowledge of having dementia for the past four years and has been active in raising awareness for the lack of facilities provided for middle-aged people and the stigma associated with the disease.

“It was very traumatic to be diagnosed with early onset dementia, I think I cried for two months straight,” she said. 

“It was also a very difficult thing for my loved ones to come to terms with, the thought I may end up in an aged care facility is a very confronting proposition.

“There are no medications that can help with the disease so I rely a lot on my family to help with memory and I employ strategies such as checklists and a lot of reminders are set on my email account.”

Over the last 12 months Kate has been putting together a Fringe performance that will see the audience enjoy a series of anecdotes, poems and music articulating the struggles, triumphs and challenges facing dementia sufferers.

“Around 1500 people are diagnosed with dementia each week in Australia and alarmingly there are no care facilities for younger people with dementia; you basically have no choice but to go into a nursing home,” she said.

“There is a lot of stigma associated with dementia and a lot of people just don’t understand that dementia is a disease and not a mental illness for instance.

“The Fringe performance will hopefully help to break down the barriers and give people a better understanding what it is like to live with this disease.”

Despite managing a terminal and declining condition Kate has continued with her studies at UniSA in communication and hopes to complete an Honours Degree this year.

“It is hard for others to sometimes appreciate that someone my age has something which really makes activities like studying difficult; on the surface it doesn’t look like there is anything wrong, but the lecturers have been excellent,” she said.

“I believe studying is helping me to achieve and improving my brain function and it feels like I am succeeding.”

My Unseen Disappearing World begins on Saturday 25th of February at 7pm, at the Scots Church on North Terrace.

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  • Daniel Hamilton office (08) 8302 0578

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