The ageing tsunami Dementia – How big is it in Australia?


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September is marked as World Alzheimer’s Month and 16th-22nd September is celebrated as the Dementia Action Week in Australia. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that by 2057, there will be a staggering 1 million Australians who would be suffering from the disease of forgetfulness – dementia! There will also be 8.8 million people above the age of 65 years who would be diagnosed with dementia in the same year. In the year 2017, 18% of Australians (4 million) were aged above 65 years and by the time it is 2057, the group will increase to 25% of the population and by 2097, this proportion will reach 12.9 million or one among four in the entire population.

At the same time, it is alarming to note that Professor Anstey, scientist at Neuroscience Research Australia, revealed that more than half of the people living in Australia were left undiagnosed. With the anticipated increased in numbers of dementia, it is clear that there will also be a rise in the demand of disability services Campbelltown and in other places to aid the ailing in a systematic way. More and more households are taking resort to either home care services or are planning to shift their loved ones to senior living facilities.

Best guess scenario – The ageing tsunami

Professor Kaarin Anstey, the director and founder of UNSW Ageing Futures Institute reports that her organization was desperately trying to get a nationwide study on the occurence of dementia. Taking into account the present statistics, it is being considered as a ‘big guess scenario’ and Anstey believes that there is need for a population-based study in Australia in order to determine and incidence and prevalence of the disease.

There is not enough data on the status of health of the older Australians, especially those who are residing in residential senior care living facilities. As Australian baby boomers ages, there are forecasts of a staggeringly large numbers of seniors who would be living with dementia and these forecasts are based on overseas data.

On the other hand, according to a new AIHW report that came out in 2018, there was a 25% drop in the total number of hospitalization cases for people living with dementia in the past decade to 95,700 in 2016-2017. Current figures however reported that there was a 416% increase in the patients who had madness superimposed over dementia. There was also a 40% increase in cases of vascular dementia along with a 65% drop in rate of undiagnosed dementia. Richard Jukes, a spokesperson of AIHW Health Group said that it was not clear why this rate had fallen but he doubted the reason to be due to the larger ratio of patients who are living in aged care. It might also be because instances of dementia have declined altogether.

Experts believe through an Australian study that could unravel the local hot spots of dementia. For instance, the aged people who live near busy roads may have been seen to have higher chances of dementia but it was not clear whether this was caused due to pollution, noise or socio-economic status.

Ageing services meet the needs of dementia patients

According to highlights of The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, light has been thrown on managing the increasing prevalence of dementia among Australians. With the startling number of people in Australia who are presently living with dementia, it is said to be the 2nd leading cause of death among women in particular. More than half of all the dementia home care Melbourne residents have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s which is the leading cause of dementia and these residents usually have more pressing needs than the residents who aren’t suffering from the same.

Nevertheless, while there are several evidences brought forth by the Royal Commission which have highlighted the failure of such service providers in giving proper care to patients with dementia, there are also plenty of instances where senior services have met all the needs of the aged population of Australia. Scroll down to know on the different facilities and how they assist the seniors.

Special care units

If you consider Western Australia, there is a $75 million project called the Specialist Dementia Care Program that was given trial at The Village aged-care facility in Inglewood and was operated by Brightwater Care Group. This is deemed to be the first among the 34 special care units that were formed all over Australia. This program identifies the needs of those who are not only suffering from dementia but who also require additional support.

It includes a focus on multi-disciplinary approach towards care for people who exhibit crucial psychological and behavioral symptoms of dementia and who are not able to get help from the mainstream aged-care services. Brightwater is also approaching a wide array of stakeholders to provide conventional residential support, specialised support focusing on diminishing the symptoms over time with an aim of letting people move over to less intensive home care settings.

Intervention of technology

Technology has begun to play a vital role in handling and assisting people who are living with dementia. IRT Group has joined hands with Melbourne-based company, IoTTag to design a new kind of tracking system that could locate residents during the early onset of dementia who have the habit of wandering away from their homes. This device is being made based on the current design of locating missing household items like bags, car keys or spectacles. The device consists of hardware and an app that has gone through a two-stage testing.

Staffs are of the opinion that in time, this will secure dementia care, free beds in dementia care services and this can lead to people leaving care and moving back to either self-care or low-care facilities. As soon as the bespoke solution is ready for use at chosen IRT Group sites, this will offer a generic version of the main system to the public and other senior-care providers.

In short, it can be safely said that dementia care is usually seen as the main part of mainstream business and hence it receives appropriate support from the Australian government.

A list of services that are offered to people with dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term that is used to describe all sorts of symptoms of illnesses and disorders which have a damaging impact on human brain. It is not any name of a specific disease. Common forms of dementia are cardio-vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Someone who is affected with this disease goes through a progressive decline in functioning and this disease also affects the person’s behavior, thinking and capability of performing various tasks. This even impacts your senses of touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing. What are the few services that are available in Australia for people suffering from dementia? Scroll down to know more.

National Dementia Helpline

If you don’t know about National Dementia Helpline, it is a telephone support service that works all over Australia. This helpline employs experienced and trained professionals who can do the following in order to assist you:

  • They can assist people suffering from dementia and also their friends and family
  • They can help you with staff who can take care of someone who is suffering from dementia
  • They can assist anyone who is worried about memory loss

You can get practical advice and information and the staffs and employees can inform you regarding the services offered by Alzheimer’s Australia. 1800 100 1500 is the helpline number that you can call during business hours.

CDAMS or Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service

CDAMS is yet another well-known specialist service which helps people suffering from memory loss or brings about changes to their thought processes, carers, partners and friends who support them. Here is a detailed overview of what they offer:

  • Appropriate treatments and details on them
  • Clinical diagnosis by experts
  • Advice on planning for the future
  • Support, education and information
  • Details on how to deal with everyday dementia issues
  • Links to other communities and services for caregivers and the patients

As long as their medical treatment is concerned, it included health consultations with expert physicians who can also visit you in your home. CDAMS will also speak about the result of the recommendations and consultations and if you ask them to, they can also speak to your doctor and caregiver.

DBMAS or Dementia Behavior Management Advisory Service

The DBMAS assists people in supporting someone who suffers from dementia in different situations when their behavior gets out of control. Here are the services that DBMAS can offer:

  • Determine and analyse the condition of the person living with dementia
  • Offer information, clinical support and advice, either over the phone, chat, mail or fact-to-face
  • Assistance with short-term case management and care planning

All such above listed assessments are done free of cost for people who exhibit behavior types that are nothing but symptoms of dementia. They even help you with effective referrals to the other communities and support services.

How are you supposed to deal with aggressive behavior?

There are some people with dementia or Alzheimer’s who may glide into a combative stage of dementia. This is normal stage of the disease and it can occur to any older adult who has even been non-violent all through their lives. The changes within the brain lead to the damage. Due to the fact that they are not able to communicate their personal needs, they often lash out and feel frustrated, angry, afraid or in pain without any reason. In case you’re someone who feels attacked by the aggressive behavior of a dementia patient, here are few ways in which you can learn from the situation and find out ways in which you can handle it.

  1. Set realistic expectations about how to deal with it

You have to always remind yourself that aggressive feelings and challenging behavior is a surefire symptom of dementia and no matter how hard you try to avoid such situations, you have to come across it when you’re caregiving a person with dementia. When you have come to terms with the fact that such episodes are a part of this disease, this automatically reduces the surprise and shock when it actually happens. At the same time, you will also find it easier to take such behavioral disorders casually.

  1. Determine the actual cause of the behavior

Try and recall what exactly happened just before this emotional outburst. Was it related to frustration, fear or pain? If you see the older adult to shout out inside an empty room asking people to vacate the room, what is the reason behind it? Is it because there’s dim light in the room that is causing shadows in the corner thereby making it feel like people standing at the corners of the room. Once you get to understand this reason, turn on the lights so that he feels comfortable.

  1. Don’t always think that the behavior is caused due to pain

Yes, though it is true that discomfort and pain can sometimes trigger unnatural behavior among a dementia patient but this is not always true. There are several adults with dementia who still have the capability of communicating their own feelings even when they are in pain. Instead of thinking that all their behaviors are being triggered by pain, ask them whether or not he needs medicines.

  1. Make sure your touch is reassuring and your tone is gentle

If your older adult seems to remain upset, stay as calm as you can and take a deep breath before losing your calm. During such a situation, if you too show your upset feelings, this will unnecessarily aggravate your tensed emotions. Breathe slowly as this can reduce everyone’s agitation and anger. Maintain a soft voice, speak slowly, and stay positive and reassuring.  Place a calm touch on his shoulder to offer comfort.

Therefore, if you’re living with a dementia patient, make sure you are well-versed with the ways in which you should interact with him. Keep in mind all the above listed tips and strategies.