Dementia is one of the leading causes of death in Australia, and affects almost 500,000 Australians each year. It more frequently occurs in those aged 65 or over, but can affect people across all stages of life. Dementia can be a cause of distress for both the individual and their family, as the mental degeneration causes memory loss, personality changes, and cognitive impairment. But learning more about the condition and what resources are available can take some of the stress out of a challenging situation.
Read on to find out more about what dementia is, and how you can support a loved one with dementia care services.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is the umbrella term for a wide range of brain-related degenerative conditions (known scientifically as neurodegenerative disorders). These conditions cause increased memory loss, personality changes and cognitive decline. The most common form is Alzheimers, which is responsible for around 70% of dementia cases in Australia.
Other forms include:
- Vascular dementia, which is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies, caused by a buildup of proteins in the brain
- Parkinson’s related dementia, caused as a result of Parkinson’s Disease
- Mixed Dementia, where there are one or more causes of dementia
How Can I Tell If A Loved One Has Dementia?
The most common sign of dementia is memory loss, although memory loss is not always an indication of dementia. As we age, our cognitive capabilities do encounter slight declines, and we may not be able to recall words or names as quickly as we used to. Memory loss normally accompanies a variety of different symptoms, including impaired judgement and difficulty in problem-solving (e.g. completing puzzles or difficulty following directions),
Those with dementia also may act differently from their normal behaviour, and neglect their personal health, including looking after themselves or even feeding a pet. They might say inappropriate comments, show a disregard for their personal safety, or withdraw from social events and activities. Their moods might be angrier than usual, particularly if they find it difficult to follow stories, complete actions, or fulfil daily tasks as they normally would.
If you think your loved one is showing signs of dementia, early diagnosis is the first step to help manage the symptoms.
Who Is At Higher Risk Of Dementia?
Some individuals are at higher risk of dementia due to underlying health conditions. The primary cause of dementia is age-related factors, although if you have diabetes or heart disease you may be at a higher risk. There is a link between your heart, brain, and dementia. Those who have had a stroke, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure are at greater risk of developing dementia. Smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and neglected mental health are also a common cause of dementia. Alcohol or substance abuse is also linked to dementia in later life.
How Can I Support Someone With Dementia?
Family and friend support networks are a vital part of managing life with dementia. Your loved one might be confused, upset, or lost. Although it is understandable to be angry or upset with a dementia diagnosis, it is important not to relay that anger to the individual. Avoid crossing arms, keep calm, and be aware of your body and hand gestures as much as possible.
Help guide those who are confused with short and simple sentences, like ‘Would you like some help?’. Try to reassure the individual and smile as much as possible. Perhaps you could offer a distraction from the cause of distress, like offering a cup of tea. For the individual, their thoughts and feelings are very real, and they may say things that aren’t correct. Try not to challenge or argue with them.
How Can I Take Care Of Myself At The Same Time?
Caring for someone with dementia can be upsetting. Your loved one is losing their memory and may experience personality changes, which is extremely distressing to watch. It is not uncommon for carers of those with dementia to have depression. It is important to look after yourself as much as you are able. Make time for yourself, and arrange for dementia home care wherever possible. Dementia care services will allow your loved one to be cared for, to meet new people, and also give you a break.
What Dementia Care Services Are Available In Australia?
Dementia care in Australia is a vital part of looking after a loved one, and there are a variety of services available:
- Home care – a qualified dementia care assistant will visit the home of your loved one and assist with personal care, daily domestic assistance and life skills.
- Community participation – a dementia care expert can help your loved one to engage with the local community when you need support. Whether they need help shopping or visiting their friends, dementia care allows them to have support in completing these activities.
- 24/7 Support – for those with advanced dementia, you might need permanent care services or assistance to best support your loved one.
- Respite care – when it gets too much, dementia care services can provide respite care, so you can complete the tasks you need to and take a break.
- Palliative care – when your loved one is nearing the end of their life, palliative care provides caring and support at the final stage of their journey.
HomeCaring provides all the above dementia care options if you need a bit of support in helping your loved one.
We’re Here For You At HomeCaring
At HomeCaring, we want to provide you and your loved one with the support you need in managing life with dementia. Our team are world leaders in dementia care, and have even founded the Australian International Home Care Academy, to boost the quality of care services in Australia and beyond. Our nurses have decades of dementia care experience between them, and are dedicated to working with you and your loved ones to manage these life changes with dignity.
Are you supporting a loved one with dementia? Contact us now to find out about our available services and gain that vital support today.