As long asyou discuss about dementia in Australia, the statistics are alarming. After an average person turns 84, 1 in 4 will certainly be diagnosed with dementia and among the nonagenarians; the number is 1 in 2. The primary reason for dementia is age and Australia is ageing rapidly as a nation. In fact, the figures revealed in the Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia report painted a rather bleak picture of the nation and its economy. Presently, there are more than 415,000 Australians who are living with dementia of which 56% are women. By the end of 2025, this number is predicted to soar to 546,000 and to a whopping 1.2 million by 2055!
The driving factor behind this drastic and dramatic growth of this disease is the ageing community. The report also emphasises on the beginning of an immense financial burden for providing dementia care. In the year 2017-2018, it cost $15 billion to fund the hospital, medical and community care to provide the required support to the ageing generation. Over the span of the next decade, this cost is looking to increaseto $6 billion thereby putting the plans of the federal government at risk.
Startling statistics on dementiain Australia
Dementia and its impact on Australia
Funding and research by the Australian government
A detailed overview on Dementia – What is it actually?
The word ‘dementia’ is an umbrella term which might include an entire set of symptoms which can include difficulty in solving problems, thinking, memory loss or speech loss. These changes to your behaviour are small to start off with but for a person who is living with severe dementia, loss of function can gradually get severe enough to impact his daily life and regular activities. A person with dementia can also witness sudden mood swings and changes in behavior.
Dementia can occur due to diseases like Alzheimer’s or a number of strokes one after the other. However, Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia but definitely not the only type. The symptoms that a person suffering from dementia can experience will depend on various parts of the brain which are damaged and those parts which are causing the disease. There are more than one types of dementia and among them few are vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body disease and frontotemporal dementia. While this disease can happen to anyone, it is more common among people who are above 65 years of age.
Dementia and itsdifferentstages
Although the terms Alzheimer’s and dementia are often used interchangeably, they are actually twodifferent terms. As mentioned above, dementia is a broader term which is used to depict different conditions which include Alzheimer’s along with other health conditions with similar symptoms. To be diagnosed with dementia, a person should be suffering from more than just forgetfulness. They must be facing trouble in at least 2 of the below mentioned cognitive areas:
Using GDS to assess the progression of dementia
Once this disease progresses, there are various symptoms and signs that gradually start getting moreobvious. While there are different scales to determine the disease’s progression, one of the most common scales used is Global Deterioration Scale (GDS). Another name for this scale is Reisberg Scale. As per the GDS, there are 7 stages of Alzheimer’s disease with varying symptoms of each stage. Scroll down to learnmore about thedifferent stages of dementia.
NO DEMENTIA – STAGE 1
This includes Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3. When a person is at Stage 1 of dementia, there will be minimal signs of the disease and the person will function in a very normal way just as other people who are healthy. So, people who are not diagnosed with dementia are said to belong to Stage 1. As per the Alzheimer’s Association, stage 1 of dementia starts even before there are any symptoms. During this particular stage of dementia, if the person would consult a health professional, it is most likely that the doctor couldn’t diagnose the disease due to lack of symptoms.
GENTLE AND SOFT SYMPTOMS OF COGNITIVE DECLINE – STAGE 2
It is also hard to identify Stage 2. When people gradually age, there is a natural degeneration of memory and hence this can’t be taken as a useful symptom of dementia. In this stage, seniors can misplace their things and forget about it, like wallet and keys. They may also suffer from a trouble in remembering what something was. Here are few symptoms of this stage:
VERY MILD DECLINE TO MODERATELY MILD –STAGE 3
This is the stage when you may become aware of the fact that a near and dear one is suffering from dementia. Though the loss of memory is breezy enough but it eventually gets clearer to the person’s family members, colleagues and friends. The person then suffers from a difficulty in performing at their workplace, concentrating on the simple tasks done everyday, recalling tips taken from someone and many other symptoms.
MODERATIVE COGNITIVE DECLINE – STAGE 4
This is that stage where the doctor needs to be involved as the symptoms will become more and more noticeable and recognizable among the family members. During the stage 4 of dementia, a person might forget something about their hometown. There can also be a sudden shift in personality; for example someone who has always been a positive and polite person might suddenly change to becoming angry and ill-behaved. This is therefore the best time to involve a professional who can help you understand some of these symptoms.
REASONABLY SERIOUS SYMPTOMS OF RATIONAL DECLINE – STAGE 5
This is a stage where the symptoms become easily recognizable and identifiable. There is confusion in daily activities like how to choose an outfit for a specific occasion or how to brush your teeth or comb your hair. This is when the person loses a brief part of their memory. If there is anything new that has occurred in the life of the person like meeting someone new or having heard someone’s story, these instances won’t be remembered soon after the conversation. Few symptoms of this stage are:
SEVERE DEMENTIA – STAGE 6
This is probably going to be the toughest stage both for the person suffering from dementia and for the near and dear ones. At this stage, assisted living may be the best choice. Theperson will now need help with dressing, hygiene and also with eating. Your family member might even run the risk of getting lost amidst a public area. The caregivers have to be extremely watchful during this stage.
VERY HARSH DEMENTIA – STAGE 7
This is the final stage of dementia where the person might lose communication abilities, both physically and verbally. Theywill find it impossible to emote theirfeelings and will need help with most of the common daily activities. The simplest tasks will need to be done with the help of a friend or a member from the family or a nurse. The symptoms at this stage are:
Requirement of care by each stage
Initially when a person is diagnosed with dementia, they might not require assistance or care but with the progress of the disease, care will be eventually necessary. Let’s take a look at the care requirements by each stage:
Early stage: This is the time when the person will function as normally as any other person would and hence there is little or no care needed. You just have to give them simple reminders and few coping strategies to help the person stay as independent as possible. Family members can offer this kind of care during the early stage of dementia.
Middle stage: Here the person is no longer able to function independently as they could in the previous stage. Assistance is required in the form of grooming, bathing, dressing and even while going to bed. You should appoint a professional caregiver at this stage.
Late stage: A person who is at the latest stage of dementia will require adequate amount of care and supervision throughout the day. They might need help for being moved from the bed to the chair so that they can avoid bedsores. Swallowing food also becomes tough and hence his food items may have to be pureed.
Taking care of someone living with dementia can often become a stressful and overwhelming experience. However, if you understand the various stages of the disease, you will know what to expect and be able to act accordingly.