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Dementia is a degenerative condition of the brain that can be caused by a number of different disease processes, with Alzheimer’s Disease being the most common. It can be a devastating, largely irreversible, disease that significantly impairs the quality of life of previously very capable people.

More common in over 65s, dementia is a subtle disease in that it is hard to recognize early on. It is an illness that only affects a minority of people but can happen to anyone. Symptoms to recognize are:

  • Memory loss and frequent episodes of confusion
  • Reduced intelligence and ability to do previously easy tasks
  • Personality changes and often apathy and withdrawal from social interactions
  • Safety issues such as leaving the gas on the stove, wandering onto busy roads and dangerous driving.

In an age where life expectancy is rising we can sadly expect to see many more relatives and friends develop this condition. Early recognition and appropriate diagnosis are key as early interventions such as medications and supportive measures can assist and arrest progression in a number of cases. Pre-emptive measures such as making a will, power of attorney and Advance Care Plan can reduce stress on carers later on.

Concerns should be raised early with a GP to assess the problem (ideally with the carer present), exclude other conditions such as medication, vitamin or hormonal deficiencies, anxiety/depression or brain disorders which may mimic dementia, arrange suitable investigations and possible referral to specialists services such as:

  • Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service (CDAMS), a clinic with specialists and allied health providers to aid with managing with dementia.
  • Aged Care Assessment Services (ACAS). A service that visits people’s homes, assesses needs, arranges care and help at home or respite placement.

Living with dementia can be very challenging and frustrating for patients and carers. A person with dementia should be encouraged to use other tools to prompt them of things, such as lists or using technology such as Ipads. The person should aim to keep a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition, regular exercise as well as keeping the brain active such as reading, listening to music, looking at old photos and puzzles.

National Dementia Helpline – Alzheimer’s Australia Tel. 1800 100 500


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