It’s Dementia Action Week! So we thought it was a good opportunity to talk more about dementia – what it is, how common it is, signs and symptoms and ways to manage it.
What are the facts?
- In 2019, it is estimated that nearly 450,000 Australians are living with dementia (and this number is expected to rise)
- Currently around 250 people PER DAY are diagnosed with dementia
- The number of Australians with early-onset dementia is on the rise, and it is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (65+)
- Around 1.5 million Australians are involved in caring for someone with dementia.
Clearly dementia is something we need to be talking about!
What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term for a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a person’s functioning. There are many types of dementia, but the most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s.
Dementia can affect your memory, your language skills, your ability to understand information, your spatial skills, judgment, and attention span. It is a progressive disease, so that means it symptoms gradually worsen over time.
There is currently no cure for dementia. Some medications can improve quality of life, but they do not stop the progression of the disease. As always, chatting to your GP is your first step in diagnosing, then managing dementia, and we at SwiftDoc can provide continuity of care in this regard.
Can you prevent dementia?
Currently there is no way to prevent dementia, but by leading a healthy lifestyle you may be able to reduce your risk factors. Things such as being physically active, following a healthy diet, challenging your brain mentally and being social are all simple things that may lower your risk.
You don’t have to spend lots of money on “brain training games” either. Even activities such as finding something challenging and interesting to learn (such as a new language or skill) can help to keep your brain active.
Maintaining an active social life is also beneficial to your overall brain health. Humans much prefer to socialise rather than be isolated, and activities such as catching up with friends or playing team sports all help contribute to positive mental health.
Luckily, all of these can also improve your health in general, so it’s win, win!
Do I have dementia?
It is vital to consult a GP as early as you can for an assessment of your symptoms and to obtain a diagnosis.
In undertaking this assessment we may take a detailed medical history, such as family history, and an examination of the progression of symptoms. We can order blood tests to conduct a dementia screen, and arrange specialist testing if required.
Some people are reluctant to visit a GP because they are fearful to be told that they have dementia. If you know someone that you think may be showing symptoms of dementia, it may help to offer your support to ease their anxiety. Perhaps you’ve even noticed changes in their behaviour and may be able to offer useful information to assist with a correct diagnosis.
Where do I start?
Book an appointment for you or your loved one as soon as you can. We will undertake a thorough assessment, order any relevant tests and talk through management options with you.
Dementia Australia’s website provides a wealth of information on dementia, and is a great starting point for those living with dementia, or caring for others with dementia.