Traversing her father’s dementia journey with him over more than seven years provided the impetus for 53 year old Leslie Harris to create Harris List – a website guide to key resources to help people find information and support.
With information provided by a multitude of different organisations and people often ‘not knowing what they don’t know’, the Harris List is a first of its kind website in New Zealand, that pulls it all together in one simple to navigate site.
The concept came from Leslie’s own experience. “The journey of dementia can be challenging and confusing. My father’s Alzheimer’s Disease didn’t define him but it did make it really hard at times for those of us taking that journey with him. As his family, we used to sit and wonder where on earth we could find what we needed in tough times – the questions were not answered easily. Information was available, it just took time to find. Harris List is here to make it easier to find that information and support.”
Following a soft launch in early December 2022, Harris List is already being shared by doctors, specialists and dementia organisations keen to help people care and support their loved ones.
Key topics cover diagnosis, types of dementia, how to get assessments, money matters, funding, medication, care and more. Harris List provides links to information and organisations that are experts in each of these areas.
Clinical Lead at Dementia Auckland, Rhonda Preston-Jones, says they are thrilled to have this resource available. “About half our referrals come from health professionals, the other half are people who reach out looking for support themselves. Harris List provides an easy to use site where carers and families of people living with dementia can go to find the links, the information, and the resources to need to navigate their way through the journey of dementia.”
Leslie says when she started talking to other people in the same situation, she realised her experience with searching for information was almost universal. “Other people I was talking to were also saying they had no idea where to get information, who to contact and what help there was available to them. It made sense to put it all into one place.”
Leslie’s journey also provided the motivation for her to take on a Diploma of Dementia Care at the University of Tasmania, which she has just graduated from this month.
Leslie plans to develop an education programme on how to keep communicating with someone with dementia. She says people are often scared to visit their friends and loved ones as they feel ‘forgotten’ or don’t know what to talk about. “My dad thought I was his sister at times or repeated the same stories over and over. That didn’t matter, I went with it and enjoyed every moment with him”.
The website has been a labour of love over the past two years. Leslie believes joining forces with New Zealand’s first dementia-friendly bank, Westpac, Dementia Auckland, Alzheimer’s New Zealand, and the University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research, will bring more attention to the prevalence of dementia and the desperate need for more government funding. She hopes that eventually advertising may help to fund Harris List costs and dementia education programmes going forward.