This is blog #3 of mine on the continuing AFR debacle. It seems the AFR does not wish to engage in full and open conversation about their recent lapse in judgement, and obvious serious lack of respect for people with dementia.
A public retraction and apology is still required. No less will be unsatisfactory, and many others definitely agree with me and the members of Dementia Alliance International
To continue the story, a couple of colleagues of mine and others were published in the Australian Ageing Agenda yesterday in an article Anger over Fin Review’s ‘feral’ dementia story, and I was delighted they accepted my comments about the article, in full.
“Advocates and care providers are outraged over a newspaper article that labelled seniors experiencing severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”, sparking a new focus on media representations of dementia.
Prominent dementia experts have described as “misleading, offensive” and “scurrilous” the Australian Financial Review article on the government’s Severe Behaviour Response Teams that appeared under the headline ‘Teams to deal with feral patients’.
The article by veteran Fairfax reporter Christopher Jay, which discussed the tender for the teams that will assist with the care of seniors experiencing BPSD, said that aged care providers were “bracing themselves” for a “surge of feral geriatrics with severe and often violent behaviour problems stemming from dementia.”
Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer, a research fellow at Griffith University’s Centre for Health Practice Innovation, whose research has focussed on dementia and carers, said she was “horrified” by the article.
“It was hard to believe that a respected publication like the Australian Financial Review would publish something that was so offensive and so misinformed,” Dr O’Dwyer told AAA.
She said the use of words such as feral, mad, menace, and dangerous were “particularly concerning and display a complete lack of understanding about dementia and its causes.”
It was important to recognise that the most extreme behaviours arose when families or care staff did not meet the needs of a person with dementia who, because of their condition, was no longer able to express those needs. “So it’s incredibly irresponsible for a journalist to suggest that people with dementia are willfully violent or gleefully running amok in aged care,” she said.
There was already a “great deal of fear, stigma, and misunderstanding about dementia” and this sort of coverage would feed into that, she said. “Journalists have a responsibility to help educate and inform the public and to report in a way that is evidence-based.”
Dr O’Dwyer said the AFR should issue a retraction and an apology. The newspaper should also provide its staff with “training about dementia and the realities of life in aged care,” she said.
The article has been met with fierce criticism from consumer groups such as Alzheimer’s Australia, as well as leading dementia advocates and researchers.” Follow here to read the full Australian Ageing Agenda story.
In this particular article, Dr Tom Morton adds significant insult to injury, by also offending people with dementia, and the AFR continues to call us ‘sufferers’, even though I have alerted him to the Alzheimer’s Australia language guidelines.
Professor Wendy Moyle also had part of her Letter to the Editor which she submitted published to day as well, which with permission I have added here Professor Wendy Moyle_Letter to the editor_AFR_uneditd. Interestingly, the AFR removed the section where she quoted me, before publishing it…
Such open and honest journalism…
This is the part where Wendy quotes me in her full letter; I assume the AFR may have thought at least one word I used was offensive, part of the reason they did not add her letter in full, or it could have been as suggested in a tweet by Dr Al Power, that I couldn’t be quoted, due to being “mad and bad”!!! By the way, Al is a friend, and was not in any way trying to offend me!
Dementia Alliance International, an advocacy support group by and for people with dementia, Alzheimer’s Australia and Alzheimer’s International are organisations that can assist media to use politically appropriate language when talking about people with dementia. Kate Swaffer writes regular blogs about language use and dementia. An example can be found at: https://kateswaffer.com/2014/05/26/diagnosed-with-vs-suffering-fromdementia/ In this blog Kate states that “Indigenous Australians do not accept being called Abbos or other offensive and racist terms, and people with dementia have the same right to stand up and say we don’t like certain words or terms”.
I ask that you inform your journalists that work that is offensive to people with dementia will not be accepted in the Australian Financial Review. [Wendy Moyle]. This is what they di publish, and once again, used the word sufferer, even though they have been advised it is disrespectful and offensive to people with dementia.