Dementia is a progressive and fatal disease that affects millions of individuals worldwide. With our ageing population, the prevalence of dementia will continue to increase.

In Australia, it is the second leading cause of death behind coronary heart disease and the leading cause of death in women.

The more knowledge we have regarding dementia will ensure we provide better care for our loved ones.

The term dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of cognitive impairments that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotions which in turn affects a person’s ability to perform normal daily activities. 

Common Types of Dementia

There are several different types of dementia.  Listed below are the most common forms:

Alzheimer’s Disease: Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of dementia, accounting for approximately 60-70% of cases. It is characterised by the accumulation of abnormal protein deposits in the brain that lead to the death of brain cells. As the disease progresses, individuals experience memory loss, confusion, and difficulty performing everyday tasks.

Vascular Dementia: This type of dementia is often caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, typically due to stroke or other vascular issues. Symptoms can vary depending on the location and severity of the damage but often include difficulties with organisation, decision-making and concentration.

Lewy Body Dementia: Lewy body dementia is characterised by the presence of abnormal protein deposits called Lewy bodies in the brain. It can cause fluctuating cognitive impairments, hallucinations and motor symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD): FTD primarily affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, leading to changes in behaviour, personality and language abilities. Unlike Alzheimer’s, memory often remains relatively intact in the early stages of FTD.

Mixed Dementia: Some individuals may exhibit characteristics of more than one type of dementia, known as mixed dementia. For example, a person may have both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

Stages of Dementia

There are three main stages of dementia:

Stage 1 – EARLY: The person is able to function independently but may notice some difficulties.

Stage 2 – MODERATE: This stage can last many years and the person will require increasing support.

Stage 3 – ADVANCED: In the final stage the person will require high-level support. This stage generally lasts around 1-2 years.

Early Signs and Symptoms 

Detecting dementia in its early stage can be challenging as the symptoms may be subtle and easy to overlook.  However, being aware of the following early warning signs can help in an early diagnosis and intervention:

  • Memory loss/ frequent forgetfulness
  • Difficulty/struggling to complete tasks
  • Disorientation – confused about time, place and people
  • Language problems – difficulty with word finding
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Poor judgement / making poor decisions

Strategies for Compassionate Care

Caring for people with dementia requires a unique and compassionate approach. Here are some strategies that may help with their dementia journey.

  • Person-Centred Care – take time to understand the person and their preferences.
  • Communication – Use clear and simple language and maintain eye contact. Nonverbal cues are just as important.
  • Routine and Consistency – Routine reduces confusion and anxiety.
  • Safety Measures – Ensure the environment is safe and hazard-free.
  • Sensory Stimulation – Use music therapy, aromatherapy, art therapy.
  • Encourage Independence – This promotes a sense of accomplishment.
  • Carer Support – Especially the primary caregiver.
  • Training and Education –  A better understanding leads to better care.
  • Patience and Empathy – Challenging behaviours can be demanding, try to understand the underlying cause of the agitation.
  • Emotional Support – Providing support and open communication helps the person and their family as they navigate the challenges of dementia.

Improving our knowledge of Dementia will help to improve the dementia journey of the person and their family. It will also help to reduce the stigma that people with dementia face.

Dementia does not discriminate so why should we??