Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) 2015 Family Carer of the Year
In April, a family caregiver who once saw Alzheimer’s as something to be ashamed of is awarded the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) Family Carer of the Year Award
This month, Home Instead Inc. sponsored the ADI Family Carer of the Year Award, which was presented at the 30th ADI International Conference in Perth from 15 -18 April 2015. The award aims to recognise unpaid family carers who help improve the quality of life for the people they care for. It seeks to acknowledge and celebrate the dedication they show to not only the person they care for, but also their local communities.
The award was presented by Kevin Rawnsley, the owner of Home Instead Western Australia on behalf of Home Instead globally. This year, the recipient of this prestigious award was Keiko Matsushima, who is the primary caregiver to her husband, Kenji.
Kenji was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease at 58 and the couple remembers it as a desperate and dismal time. In the beginning, although Keiko attended caregiver meetings, she refused to be interviewed or have her photograph taken. The family were fearful that if their secret got out, Kenji would lose his job, be discriminated against, and their daughter’s engagement would be affected. They saw dementia as a disease to be deeply ashamed of. Incredibly, they kept this secret for ten long years.
However, the time for change came when Keiko learned of the Japanese government’s plans to cut care insurance provisions. Motivated by this, Keiko started speaking out about dementia in their community. She even went from house to house and collected over 300 signatures to support her cause.
Since then, the couple have participated in discussions on early onset dementia with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, as well as speaking to the media and various community groups. Since going public with Kenji’s dementia, both Keiko and Kenji’s lives have changed for the better. The person that nominated Keiko notes that her decade-long journey from isolation to social inclusion has had a dramatic impact on other people in Japan who were living with dementia in secrecy.
Keiko says, “How I got through these 12 difficult years was from the experience of talking and learning from each other and with people around me, which included people with dementia and their carers. This award encourages my husband and I in the days to come. I really appreciate ADI and Home Instead.”
“I have been entirely involved in caring for 12 years. In the beginning, I felt ashamed that Kenji was suffering from dementia and I tried to conceal it as much as I possibly could. Through the interaction with supportive people, I could finally understand dementia. I cherish being with Kenji and would like to connect with other caregivers and dementia sufferers in the future as well,” says Keiko.
The ADI International Conference brought together the world’s leading researchers, healthcare professionals and experts from over 60 countries. The conference showcased the latest medical advancements, treatment developments, diagnostic techniques, care innovations and emerging practice developments. It also encouraged the presentation of fresh ways to support people living with dementia.
ADI is the international federation of 84 Alzheimer’s associations throughout the world. ADI’s vision is an improved quality of life for people with dementia and their families on a global scale.
This is the second consecutive year Home Instead has sponsored the Alzheimer’s Disease International Family Carer of the Year Award.
In 2015, Home Instead will provide more than 60 million hours of care through over 1,000 franchise offices in 16 countries around the world.