This week is Dementia Action Week, 20-26 September. There are around 472,000 individuals living with dementia and 1.6 million people involved in their care in Australia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is not one specific disease, but an umbrella term describing a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain, resulting in nerve cells and brain tissue death. Dementia affects a person’s memory, social skills, intellectual abilities, and emotional responses.
As we age, we all get forgetful and this is a normal part of ageing, but when should you investigate further?
What are the early signs of Dementia?
The signs may be subtle over time, and not immediately obvious and vary from person to person. Dementia signs are often misunderstood, and can be dismissed, because families can find them frustrating and exhausting. Dementia signs can include:
- Repetitive behaviour – repeating oneself. For instance, asking the same question over and over or repeating the same story in a conversation.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, as well as confusion about the current time and place.
- Difficulty solving simple problems such as navigating a route to get home or following a recipe.
- Poor or decreased judgement on a regular basis, and on a much larger scale. For instance, neglecting personal hygiene, dressing inappropriately for cold weather and even giving large amounts of money to strangers.
- Difficulty choosing and speaking words. The cognitive process is impaired for people with dementia; therefore they may forget what they were talking about, or express difficulty finding the appropriate words to fit the conversation.
- Difficultly performing familiar tasks. People with dementia can also take longer to complete simple tasks like dressing.
- Behavioural changes such as displaying obsessive-compulsive behaviours. Your loved one may continually check that the doors are locked or continually fret over a non-existent problem.
- Social isolation. They may have withdrawn from their usual social outings and friendships.
- Loss of initiative. Whereas once your loved one was creative and resourceful, they may no longer display any wit. This may also affect their ability to detect sarcasm or lies which may be to their detriment.
- Physically – some studies point to early changes with regards to walking and balance, as well as a weak hand grip. This in turn can lead to frequent stumbling and falling. Check out our blog here on risk factors and prevention of falls in the elderly. (link)
If you have observed any of these signs, and are concerned about yourself or a loved one, please consult your doctor for a full assessment.
The sooner dementia is diagnosed the better, as some treatments and medications can slow the progression of certain untreatable types of dementia, like Alzheimer’s.
For more information contact Dementia Australia.
Many of our residents at our homes are living with dementia and are fully supported and cared for. We are specialist dementia aged care providers in Melbourne and Geelong. We work with our elders, their families, medical practioners and support services to ensure our residents are afforded every opportunity to participate fully in day-to-day life and programs in our homes.
If you would like to know more details about the activities and facilities we have in place for our dementia residents, please contact us on (03) 9559 0400, or contact us here.