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Mind

What is Dementia?

We are constantly bombarded with information about dementia in all forms of media, in private conversations and at the doctor’s rooms. Do people want to know about dementia or are they scared of the possibility of being given the diagnosis? The answer is probably yes to both to some degree.

Dementia is a general term used to describe many different forms of disease characterised by brain function impairments, including language, memory, perception, personality and cognitive skills. The most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s Disease, vascular dementia and others. Many common diseases have dementia associated with them. For instance, alcoholism and drug abuse, Down’s syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, and some infectious diseases are just some of the more than 100 causes of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to account for between 50-70% of all dementia diagnoses.

For most people there is a long lead up time to the making of the diagnosis and an even longer time before the person living with dementia is no longer able to care for themselves. For most forms of dementia the sufferer is given plenty of time to put his or her affairs in order, make changes to a will, make arrangements for change of accommodation, write an Advance Care Plan and make many other important life decisions.

If you are worried about some poor memory, getting lost, difficulties in making decisions, problems with language and word finding, these may be symptoms of a form of dementia and it is a good idea to talk to family members and your doctor about these. The diagnosis is not difficult to make and for some people the sooner it is made the quicker you can put in place some processes that will help you stay at home and functioning well for longer even while there is a decline in abilities. There are some drugs that are being used for Alzheimer’s disease now that do in some people slow the progress, but there is no cure.

You will have heard of many activities you should be doing to maintain good brain health. These can be useful and good fun too. The Dementia Australia (formerly Alzheimer’s Australia) website has many excellent resources for people living with dementia, carers, and health professionals (www.dementia.org.au).


Learn more about dementia in Episode 5 of The Better Ageing Podcast:

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