2021-2022 Board of Directors

Welcome and congratulations to the incoming 2021/22 Board of Directors 

Board of Directors
Alister Robertson, Chair, NZ
Vacancy, Vice Chair
Kate Swaffer, co-founding board member, and CEO, Australia
Diana Blackwelder, Treasurer, USA
Wally Cox, USA
Emily Tan Tan Ong, Singapore
Theresa (Terry) Montgomery, USA
Julie Hayden England, UK

Co-opted Board Members
Deborah Keays, CA
Dr David Paulson, USA

Non member (volunteer) positions:
Outgoing Board Secretary, Sarah Yeates, Australia
Incoming Board Secretary: Shelagh Kiely, Canada
Vacancy, Finance Officer
Vacancy, Event Manager and volunteer to the board

Three Working Committees:
Internal Affairs
External Affairs

Within these committees, there is a permanent Finance and Fundraising Sub committee, a Membership sub committee, and others as required.

Professional Advisory Council: This  group consists of a number of global dementia experts, researchers, medical doctors, an attorney, an accountant and people living wth dementia.

Board of Directors, 2021-22

Alister Robertson, New Zealand

Alister Robertson, Chair, New Zealand
Alister was diagnosed in 2014 with young-onset Alzheimers at the age of 60. A similar age to his father when he was diagnosed with the same condition. Alister gained a Bachelor of Agricultural Commerce and his work history has been in the banking and finance industry working predominantly in the rural sector. Alister gained governance experience during his time on the Board of New Zealand Primary Industry Management and was awarded a Life Member in 2007.

Alister has been a Board member of Alzheimers NZ since 2018 and a member of the Alzheimers NZ Advisory Group since 2016. Alister joined Dementia Alliance International (DAI) in 2016 and has been a Board member since 2017 and was elected as Chair in January 2021.

Diana Blackwelder, USA

Diana Blackwelder, Treasurer, USA
Diana Blackwelder, MS Systems Engineering, BS Computer Science, AS Electrical Engineering, Black Belt Six Sigma Process Improvement was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) in 2016 and Young Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in 2017 at age 55 when in the prime of her professional career. Prior to retiring on disability Diana had worked for 16 years as an IT Systems Integration Engineer with Lockheed Martin and 6 years as a Software Security Engineer for the US Federal Court System.

She continues to successfully live alone in Washington, DC, provides care for her two pet cats, travels internationally and advocates for the betterment of lives of those living with multiple cognitive disabilities caused by dementia. Diana is a volunteer researcher at University of Maryland, a U.S. National Alzheimer’s Association Early Stage Advisor, active member National Center on Advancing Person-Centered Practices and Systems (NCAPPS) and consults to the Smithsonian and US Botanical Garden Access Programs for people living with dementia.

Kate Swaffer, Australia

Kate Swaffer, co-founding board member and CEO, Australia
Kate Swaffer, MSc, BPsych, BAm Retired Nurse. Kate is a co-founder, and the CEO and past Chair of Dementia Alliance International, and an elected board member for Alzheimer’s Disease International. Kate is married, with two adult sons. She is an Honorary Associate Fellow, Faculty of Science, Medicine & Health, University of Wollongong, International Fellow, Impact Research Group, University of East Anglia, and has played a key role in campaigning for the human and legal rights for people with dementia including equal access to the CRPD.

She has been tireless in her work on reframing dementia as a disability, for rehabilitation for dementia, and is the first person in the world with dementia, diagnosed herself at the age of 49, to be a keynote speaker at the WHO, at the time representing DAI as co-chair. Kate has contributed to key national and global policy documents including work for the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Quality Rights initiative, and the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM) for dementia.

Wally Cox, USA

Wally Cox, USA
Wally has been a DAI Board member for the last two years. He lives in northern California with his wife, Pat. They have three kids and two grandchildren and have been married since the day after Pat graduated from high school. Wally was diagnosed with dementia at 62. Dementia runs in his family; his grandmother became senile (that’s what they called it back then) when she was in her late seventies.

Fast-forward a few years and my dad – who was in his sixties – started exhibiting some odd behaviors and doing things that were seemingly out of character. It wasn’t until he got into his eighties that the doctors said he probably had dementia of some kind. That was about the time that Wally started having problems. Wally also has a brother who has been diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia. Wally co-hosts a support group and DAI’s monthly Café Le Brain.

Image source: Emily Ong

Emily Ong, Singapore
Emily is based in Singapore and happily married with two young adult children. She was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and the possibility of young-onset dementia at 51. Before dementia, Emily has been involved in social change advocacy matters like consumerism, human rights, and special needs inclusion in mainstream education.

Emily brings over 20 years of experience in providing training, consulting, and coaching services. She is a co-program planner and inclusion facilitator for Dementia Singapore ‘Voices for Hope’, an empowerment and advocacy program. Emily has strong interpersonal skills, able to work effectively across diverse, multicultural, and multigenerational workplaces.

Emily is also sitting on the ADI Accreditation Global Review Panel and a Focus Group member of WHO Global Dementia Observatory. She is working closely with ADI in helping to support the Asia Regional dementia networks on increasing the voices of people living with dementia. Alzheimer Indonesia (ALZI) has invited Emily to do a sharing at the care partners counselling session.

Terrie Montgomery, USA

Theresa  (Terrie) Montgomery, USA
Terry left the work force in 2015 after being diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 58. Terry is a native of Chicago, IL and relocated to Duluth, GA in 2016.  She has a Bachelor of Arts, in Human Resource Management, Judson University, Elgin, IL. Moreover, Terry has a 38 year working experience in public relations, human resource management, human services, accounting, project management, sales, customer service and entrepreneurship.

In addition she participated in several training videos for the Alzheimer’s Association to bring awareness to what it is to live with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  She also participated in online training for Community Volunteer Projects with the Alzheimer’s Association,  served as a National Early Stage Advisor, 2018-2019, and participated in a Ad Council commercial relating to Early Detection, and at every opportunity she was always ready to advocate and speak for those that no longer have a voice.  Terry loves staying busy,  before COVID -19 she was volunteering at the nursing homes and extended care units to do activities with Dementia patients. Terry Montgomery believes in keeping herself busy by volunteering as a  DAA Dementia Advocate, Speaker and Writer.  She also is a current member of the Dementia Action Alliance Advisory Board.

Julie Hayden, England

Julie Hayden, England, UK
Julie lives in Halifax, West Yorkshire, UK. She was diagnosed in May 2017 at the age of 54. She previously had professions as a qualified nurse and a social worker in older people’s care. In both of those careers was involved in dementia care. There is a long history of dementia in Julie’s family, although she is the first to develop young onset. Soon after diagnosis, Julie started her own young onset peer support group, as there was none locally. Julie joined DAI within her first year of diagnosis, being drawn by the fact that DAI were a group of people living with dementia doing it for themselves.

Julie lives alone and having to self manage her journey, began co-hosting  DAI’s Living Alone With Dementia support group three years ago and co-hosted support group on Christmas Day for the last three years. Julie has been involved in an Advanced Dementia Studies programme at Bradford University, participating in Experts By Experience programmes, has a seat on the Steering Group of the 3Nations Dementia Working Group, and is part of the Prime Minister’s Champions’ Group on Dementia.

Deborah Kaeys, Canada

Deborah Kaeys, Canada
Debbie Keay was diagnosis with early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 58, following 12 years of signs and symptoms prior to diagnosis. Having 7 family members with Alzheimers and Lewy Body dementias, her career in Social Work lead her to develop compensatory strategies for her cognitive challenges until they stopped working. Eventually memory issues prevented her from being employable and she was placed on a disability pension. Working in healthcare and the area of social work for approximately 35 years, in hospital administration and management, community not-for profit agencies, then Executive Director of Distress Centre Hamilton and 10 years prior to her diagnosis with the City of Hamilton (Senior Services and Public Health) Debbie ceased working in 2018. It took 18 months to mourn her losses and adapt to her new circumstances.

Overcoming the many challenges dementia brings to a person, she is now living well and is at peace with her diagnosis and opted to help others in their journey with the diagnosis. Her particular interests in the area of dementia include: the emotional well-being of those newly diagnosed, stigma or a person’s perception of the disability (self-imposed and from others), and de-institutionalization of people living with dementia and looking at alternative accommodation for them. She also queries MAID (Medical Assistance in Death). She is now a local, national and international voice for persons living with dementia, connected and an active participant and member in committees, dementia programs and research across Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Debbie also has renewed her education by completing courses at the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre through Tasmania University.

Dr David Paulson, USA

Dr David Paulson, USA
David Paulson grew up on a farm on a gravel road in Genoa, IL, a small midwestern town 65 miles west of Chicago. He graduated from nearby Northern Illinois University with degrees in International Business and Spanish Translation. He worked at his family’s printing business as Sales Manager before returning to university, being awarded a Ph.D. in Spanish Applied Linguistics and a Certificate in Second Language Acquisition and Teacher Education. David went on to teach at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN; The Univ of North Dakota; The University of Barcelona, Spain; Kishwaukee College; Middlebury College and Southwest MN State Univ as a Professor of Spanish Linguistics. I have led numerous student groups to Spain, Colombia, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Mexico. I am also a published author and have received several teaching awards.

In 2012, David retired from teaching due to symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. In 2015 I received a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s after suffering a mild stroke. At this time, I joined DAI. Later I became co-host of the Living Alone Group. I have delivered presentations on early onset dementia at McCormick Place in Chicago and at a retirement community in DeKalb, IL. David remains an active and committed member of DAI. It would be an honor to serve on the Board.

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