Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is anticipated to quadruple by 2050.
Dementia Australia reports an estimated 425,416 people are living with the condition and more than 250 people are diagnosed each day.
While there are no treatments to reverse or slow the onset of dementia, therapies can help to improve the quality of life for people with the condition.
Dementia is an umbrella term given to a range of conditions that cause a progressive decline in brain function, says Dr Luke Smith, a clinical neuropsychologist at Cabrini Health.
“The early signs of dementia are varied and can include day-to-day memory difficulties, uncharacteristically forgetting recent conversations, difficulty carrying out everyday tasks, deterioration in language skills and changes in personality such as an increase in impulsive behaviour.”
Dementia can happen to anyone but is more common after the age of 65.
September is Dementia Australia’s Dementia Awareness Month. In turn, Cabrini Health is encouraging people who are concerned about a loved one to seek help and advice.
“If you are worried about yourself or someone you know, it is important to speak to your GP, who can refer you to Cabrini Health’s community cognition and dementia service. Seeking help early is crucial so that appropriate therapies and support can be put in place,” says Dr Smith.
Appropriate therapies and support services could improve outcomes for people with dementia and their families, he says. “Research now suggests that cognitive rehabilitation for people with early-tomoderate-stage dementia can improve their functioning in everyday activities such as cooking, self-care and socialising.
‘‘Cabrini Health will be translating this research into a clinical program in the near future.”
In the first project of its kind in Australia, Cabrini Health has recently partnered with Dementia Australia, with support from the Grenet Foundation, to improve the hospital experience for people with dementia.
“This project is designed to help patients better adapt to the hospital environment, making it more dementia-friendly as well as providing additional training for staff to assist in improving patient care,” Dr Smith says.
As well as assisting in the hospital setting for both inpatients and outpatients, Cabrini offers a comprehensive program for people to receive support and treatment in their own homes.
“Our community cognition and dementia service supports patients and their families within their own environment. As a result, our interventions are tailored specifically to the needs of the patient, often resulting in better outcomes. We work closely with the family and carers to enable people to remain in their own home for as long as possible,” Dr Smith says.
Cabrini’s community cognition and dementia service comprises specialist doctors, nurses and allied health professionals with experience and expertise in dementia, providing a holistic approach to care.
The team works together with patients and their families to assess, diagnose and manage thinking and memory difficulties, and develop tailored plans for ongoing treatment, support and management.
Credit: Sunday Age: 2 Sept 2018, Holistic approach to deliver peace of mind