Kate Swaffer wins 2018 Richard Taylor Advocate Award


On World Alzheimer’s Day, we usually announce the winner of the Richard Taylor Memorial Advocates Award.

However this year, we surprised the winner!!!

“We have never been prouder than to award DAI’s coveted and prestigious 2018 Richard Taylor Memorial Advocates Award, to our very own and most deserving, Kate Swaffer. The award was presented to Kate at the DAI Workshop during the 33rdADI Conference in Chicago on July 28th. It was done, without her knowledge, as in past years, she has not allowed the nominations for her to be considered, allowing other DAI members to be recognised for their work, so we decided to make a decision without her knowledge, and surprise her at the conference!

Thank You and CONGRATULATIONS Kate. You are the most steadfast, determined, generous, selfless, loving and truly inspirational leader, we have ever known. We also wish to extend a very special thank you to your husband Peter and her son’s Charles & Matthew for sharing you with us and for supporting you in every way so that you could miraculously keep paddling through all the adversity we face on our very important and lifesaving mission.

Kate has always refused this award when nominated for it over years past, always nominating someone else to receive it out of concern for “appearing self-serving”. We all knew she would do it again so, we snuck around her, taking it into our own hands. Keeping a secret from Kate as you can imagine, was no easy task but, thanks to our “Big Tuna” (Peter Watt aka BUB) and, a “top-secret board meeting”, we pulled it off without a hitch and with no less than a standing ovation. I dare say, there were many tears of joy in the room that day including, from our dear Kate.

Having been diagnosed at the young age of 49, Kate quickly began her nearly 11-year journey of advocacy that is arguably second to none in terms of achievements. Kate’s unyielding resolve, attention to detail and, tireless work ethic allows her to get things done and, sets her far apart from her peers in the spectrum of Association CEO’s and, other Dementia Advocates. Additionally, Kate’s intelligence, knowledge, grace, force when necessary and calm with which she presents, has made her one of the most sought-after speakers in our world of dementia advocacy, as well as in academic circles.

Just four and a half years ago, Kate Swaffer, Richard Taylor, John Sandblom and five others started Dementia Alliance International as a base from which to advocate for people living with Dementia. One might say “they didn’t have a pot to pee in or, a window to throw it out of” but that did not hinder their efforts in the slightest.

Their goals were and still are to eradicate stigma, improve education at every level of the care sector, spread public knowledge about dementia, have a voice at Conferences worldwide and, become a part of high level meetings both nationally and internationally. Another very important goal was to create positive change to the lived experience of its members who are living with Dementia, through peer to peer support. The results are nothing short of phenomenal considering the many obstacles we face daily, none the least of which are, we all have dementia, regularly loosing members to death or care homes, in addition to, having inadequate outside financial support.

Clearly, Kate’s brilliant leadership has literally guided, provided and afforded us the ability to navigate all the above, seemingly insurmountable obstacles with unbelievable success. To demonstrate this point, here are some of Kate’s ongoing achievements and contributions that are instrumental in DAI getting as far as it is in such a short period of time:

Kate is involved globally in human rights activism, and empowering others with dementia to live positively.  Her publication in The Australian Journal of Dementia Care (2018),“Human rights, disability and dementia”, responds to the WHO Global Plan of Action on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017-2025.

Since speaking at the WHO First Ministerial Conference on Dementia in 2015, Kate has been key to the global advocacy of people living with dementia, and ensuring human rights are embedded into national dementia strategies. Governments invite her to work with them, including Presidents and other officials. She works with the WHO and UN, always representing DAI and the estimated 50 million peoPle living with dementia globally, and also works hard in the Low and Middle-Income Countries to support the ADI members Alzheimer’s Associations and researchers to improve dementia care. Kate is a powerful activist ensuring global change becomes a reality for everyone facing dementia, and their families.”

“Kate’s voluntary work, and incredible drive, purpose and passion to help create positive change for the 50 million people around the world currently living with dementia and their families globally, has been truly noteworthy.” (Dr. M. Funk, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO)

Kate, Richard Taylor is most assuredly smiling down on you and, is incredibly proud of you.

Although Kate received this award at the ADI Conference in Chicago late July, this has been published today because it is World Alzheimer’s Day, the day the DAI announcement is usually made and celebrated.

Authors: The DAI Board and various DAI members (minus Kate!!)
Image source: Peter Watt 2018

Read what 3 of our members said about Kate:

One of the nominations for Kate in 2016, which was the inaugural year of this award, said:

“Kate has been a tireless advocate for people who live with dementia that was first truly inspired after meeting Richard Taylor at an ADI conference. She has authored two books since diagnosis, attained a Masters in Dementia Care, and is a PhD Candidate in the same field. Kate is a founding member of DAI. Kate embodies the meaning of advocacy so I know of no one more worthy of the first Richard Taylor Annual Memorial Award.” (JS)

When I joined DAI, I had been broken by the inhumane way in which my diagnosis was delivered; I was a train wreck. It had taken me one and a half years to find DAI and, within 3 days, I was talking to Kate and others on my very first Zoom chat. It was Kate who made me laugh for the first time in 1.5 years, which, quite literally was the beginning of my rehabilitation and my ability to live well with dementia.  I can still remember putting Kate on a pedestal in my mind, in the beginning. I saw a true professional perhaps, beyond approach.  I quickly realized that she is one of the most approachable, down to earth, loving, caring individuals I have ever had the privilege to know and now, serve beside. I have seen firsthand, the high standards from which she leads and, I say with complete confidence; Kate Swaffer is unquestionably the highest spirited, motivational, effective, professional and ethical leader I have ever seen. (JW)

After hearing Kate speak for the first time at a convention in Chicago, a man in his late 20s in a dark suit asked if he could speak to me knowing that I knew and worked with Kate. He was clearly moved by Kate’s message, but more shaken than inspired at first. He started, “Wow – she really hates doctors!” I assumed he was one as well, so I added with narrowed eyes and a sly smile, “Yes, especially the younger ones. May I introduce you?” His eyes got big and from the surprised look that came over his face, “OH! No, I’M not a doctor!” so I asked his interest in the matter. He named the middle-eastern country he was from and said his gran had had some form of dementia for some time now, but it was handled very differently in his culture. He said that she was surrounded and sheltered by so many layers of immediate family members that all here daily needs are met and she is happy. I told him I have 9 cousins, most of whom I haven’t laid eyes on regularly since the Vietnam era. He laughed and said he had over 200 that he knew of.

I cautioned him not to quickly judge how our Kate Swaffer, or how the myriad of the world’s cultures from which dementia emerges addresses major cognitive disorders without taking off one’s own myopic spectacles of limited cultural understanding. No coherent progress in theoretical and experimental science into understanding dementia can legitimately proceed without the primary data sources necessary to inform the questions that will generate research that will most efficiently lead us to a world that manages dementia as it does other diseases: benefits and risks. Our primary data sources are the voices and linguistic clues into a person’s changing cognition from those people in early stages of dementia.

Kate Swaffer with her own powerful, tireless and simple message of “Let US speak for ourselves” has brought a 21st Century “salon” of penetrating inquiry into dementia to our community centers, doctor’s offices and conference tables – and online to the homes of those with dementia. Kate and other DAI members have helped us to re-discover ourselves, even discover our new voices, advocating to be a central part of a dialog of inclusiveness in the process of research and true change. (David L. Paulson, Ph.D., DAI member).

Congratulations Kate Swaffer

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