According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, Dementia is the second leading cause of death among Australians. In 2020, there is an estimated 459,000 Australians living with dementia.
It is estimated that almost 1.6 million people in Australia are involved in the care of someone living with dementia. Caring for someone with dementia can be physically and emotionally tiring and stressful. Therefore, it is important to have a full understanding of dementia and how we can provide the best support to this population.
In this post, we will discuss what is dementia, different types of dementia, and how different health disciplines are involved in providing care to patients.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is a neurodegenerative process that affects cognition
(thinking), communication, behaviour and the ability to do everyday tasks. Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65 years.
There are different types of dementia, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
The most common type of dementia, which makes up 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. This is a slow progressive neurodegeneration of the brain.
- Vascular dementia
This type of dementia is caused by reduced blood flow in the brain.
- Lewy body dementia
Protein deposits in nerve cells prevent the brain from sending chemical signals. This results in lost messages, delayed reactions, and memory loss.
- Frontotemporal dementia
This type of dementia is caused by changes in the front and side parts of the brain. These areas of brain are responsible for an individual’s language and behaviour.
- Other rare forms of dementia
Common Signs and Symptoms:
- Memory loss. Have difficulties in recalling recent events
- Confusion and disorientation, such as getting lost while driving, or unable to find their way home
- Difficulty communicating or finding words
- Difficulty handling complex/ unfamiliar tasks
- Personality changes
How can Gen Physio help with patients?
At present, there is no cure for dementia. Nonetheless, there are many types of support that health professionals can offer to enable people with dementia to continue to live well and enjoy life. Here at Gen Physio, we are a group of Allied Health Professionals and each discipline can play a role in improving wellbeing and life quality of patients.
- Fall is very common in this population due to their poor cognition and disorientation. Physiotherapist can provide advices and strategies to minimise the risk of fall
- Work alongside with Exercise Physiologist to maintain your strength, balance and physical fitness.
- Assess and treat muscle or joint pain/ stiffness which is a common problem in patients
- Provide education to family/ carer on how to transfer patients safely
- Assess home setting and provide recommendations on equipment to remain patient safe to live at home
- Prescribe mobility aids such as walking stick, walkers
- Practice daily living skills such as dressing, feeding, kitchen tasks
- To assess and address the difficulties in articulation or communication. They can provide some strategies or prescribe assistive technologies
- To assess swallowing function. This is particularly important in late stage dementia.
- Work alongside with physiotherapist to improve fitness, strength and balance.
- Provide a fall prevention program to minimise the risk of fall
- Complete a nutritional assessment and provide suggestion to maintain a healthy and balanced diet
- Provide advice and support for people with dementia who are experiencing weight loss or excessive weight gain
- Maintain optimal foot health
- Provide recommendations on footwear
- Manage foot discomfort and injuries
# Tips and Reminders for patients/ carers
- Stay Strong and Active
Encourage patients to maintain an active lifestyle. This can be achieved by attending to day services, have a home exercise routine or goes to exercise class.
- Stay Connected
Keeping the brain active, engaged and stimulated is good for your brain. This can be achieved by seeing family/ friends, staying involved with your community, club, church, or enjoying a hobby like reading, doing puzzles or playing games.
- Communicating with Patients
Be patient when speaking to patients. It often takes time for them to process what you are trying to tell them. Make sure you speak slowly and clearly to them. Also allow sufficient time for them to process and answer your questions.
- Providing Instructions
When asking patients to perform a complicated task, try to break down into few steps and provide short and simple instructions for each step. You can provide visual demonstration when necessary.
- Get Help
Get as much support as you can from friends, family, specialist and health professionals. This can reduce the physical and mental stress of yourself/ your primary carer
This post provides some basic concepts of dementia and how different health disciplines can be involved in dementia care. If you would like to know more about dementia and/ or how you can support patients, here are a few useful links and resources:
What to do now?
If you know any of your friends/ family members who are living with dementia, give us a call at Gen Physio, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All of our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.
Written By Joey Choi
Joey graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours). Throughout her clinical placements, she gained experience in musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory, neurological and paediatric field.
During her undergraduate years, she also volunteered for extra clinical training in a private clinic in Hong Kong. She gained experience in establishing a multimodal approaches for a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions.