Support, guidance & advice for todays primary carers
Confronting the Myths
Here are the most common myths which perpetuate misleading information and stigma about Alzheimer’s disease and the warning signs of dementia.
MYTH 1 “Dementia is a natural part of ageing”
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing.
It is a group of neurodegenerative diseases that affect both young people (younger onset dementia) and older people (those aged over 65). Dementia is a social and health condition, not just an aged care issue.
Dementia is the second leading cause of death of Australians and the leading cause of death of women in Australia.
MYTH 2 “Dementia is untreatable and cannot be slowed down”
There is no cure for dementia, but early symptoms can be managed by understanding its warning signs and a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.
Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment and extended quality of life.
Just as you would with heart disease and stroke, you can advise your patients to make life changes and include risk reduction strategies that reduce the likelihood they will develop dementia – the earlier, the better.
MYTH 3 “I’m not able to support a patient with dementia.”
General practitioners, general practice nurses and other health care professionals play a crucial role in assisting their patients to find specialised care, support, counselling and information.
Your advice, experience and ability to offer your patients services and resources about driving non-pharmacological treatments and advanced care planning is vital. So too is managing their medication. Referral to Dementia Australia is a great place to start.
MYTH 4 “Early diagnosis is not beneficial”
By recognising and understanding the symptoms and warning signs of dementia, general practitioners, general practice nurses and their primary care teams are in a prime position to empower their patients.
Early diagnosis is important to determine appropriate treatment needs for your patient and to help them plan for their future.
Furthermore, a timely diagnosis provides your patient with the opportunity to learn about their condition, understand changes as they occur and better plan for the range of day-to-day issues associated with having a cognitive impairment.
Health professionals can support people living with dementia, along with their families and carers, to achieve better clinical outcomes and a better quality of life.
Warning signs of Dementia
The early signs of dementia are very subtle and may not be immediately obvious.
Early symptoms also vary a great deal.
Usually though, people first seem to notice that there is a problem with memory, particularly in remembering recent events.
The early warning signs of dementia can include:
Memory loss that affects day-to-day function
It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments or a friend’s phone number and remember them later.
A person with dementia may forget things more often and not remember them at all.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks
People can get distracted from time to time, and they may forget to serve part of a meal.
A person with dementia may have trouble with all steps involved in preparing a meal.
Confusion about time and place
It’s normal to forget the day of the week – for a moment.
A person with dementia may have difficulty finding their way to a familiar place, or feel confused about where they are.
Problems with language
Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with dementia may forget simple words or substitute inappropriate words, making sentences difficult to understand.
Problems with abstract thinking
Managing finances can be difficult for anyone, but a person with dementia may have trouble knowing what the numbers mean.
Poor or decreased judgment
A person with dementia may have difficulty judging distance or direction when driving a car.
Problems misplacing things
Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with dementia may put things in inappropriate places.
Changes in personality or behaviour
Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with dementia can exhibit rapid mood swings for no apparent reason. They can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn.
A loss of initiative
It’s normal to tire of some activities. But dementia may cause a person to lose interest in previously enjoyed activities.
Only a medical practitioner such as your local doctor or specialist can diagnose dementia.
If a firm diagnosis has been made, it is helpful to find out about dementia and the support that is available to help you manage.
For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available and the Helpline is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays. Further information can also be found at dementia.org.au
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