Small actions can make a big difference: learning about dementia

Small actions can make a big difference: learning about dementia

Often people living with dementia feel isolated and wish they had more interaction and acceptance in day-to-day and social activities. Carers, such as spouses or family members can also experience considerable isolation and strain as part of supporting their loved one.

This September we are all invited to think about how we can support people living with dementia. The theme of Dementia Australia’s 2018’s awareness campaign is “Small actions Big difference”.

One very simple, small action that anyone can take is to learn more about dementia, to be better equipped to respond in a positive, helpful and inclusive way when interacting with people living with dementia and their carers.

If you haven’t had much experience with dementia, here’s a layperson’s snapshot

Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by a roughly 100 disorders that affect the brain and cause a progressive decline in a person’s ability to function and perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life.

Symptoms include loss of memory, judgement, social skills and physical ability to perform tasks. People can experience symptoms differently, depending on what area or areas of the brain are most affected, and the progression of their disorder.

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. Roughly 60% of people living with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease, probably a reason why there is sometimes confusion with the two terms.

Most people with dementia are older, but it is important to remember that not all older people get dementia. It is not a normal part of ageing.

Who is affected by dementia?

Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65 years. It’s important to remember that people in their 40's and 50's can also have dementia.

It is estimated that there are nearly 500,000 Australians living with dementia. It can occur for anyone but it is more common after the age of 65. Currently three in 10 people over the age of 85 and almost one in 10 people over 65 have dementia.

Without a medical breakthrough it is expected that these numbers will rise significantly as the Australian population ages in the coming decades.

Not all memory loss or confusion is dementia

Memory loss and confusion can be the result of other conditions or drug treatments that can be addressed or managed. It’s important to get medical advice and diagnosis at an early stage when symptoms first appear, to ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly. If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information, and medication if appropriate.

According to Dementia Australia there is are important differences in dementia related memory loss that are different from ordinary forgetfulness:
“We all forget things from time to time, but the loss of memory with dementia is very different. It is persistent and progressive, not just occasional. It may affect the ability to continue to work or carry out familiar tasks. It may mean having difficulty finding the way home. Eventually it may mean forgetting how to dress or how to bathe.

An example of normal forgetfulness is walking into the kitchen and forgetting what you went in there for,or misplacing the car keys. A person with dementia however, may lose the car keys and then forget what they are used for.”

If you have any questions about changes to changes to your memory, behaviour or ability or confidence dealing with everyday tasks, talk to your GP.

Download and read: A resource for people living with dementia, their families and carers

See Dementia Australia’s website and help-sheets for more information about early symptoms of dementia and resources for people living with dementia.

The information in this article is not intended to replace medical advice from a health professional. Readers are urged to seek advice from a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.



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