Losing your car keys is not dementia!
The number of Australians living with dementia is expected to almost triple over the next few decades. There are many reasons behind these statistics. It is important to understand some of these, along with the risk factors and symptoms. Don’t hit the panic button if you’re over 65 and forget a colleague’s name. Dementia is not an inevitable part of the ageing process.
If you keep your mind and body active and are in reasonably good health, losing your car keys and forgetting names is unlikely to be a reason for concern. Loss of memory can happen as we age, but is not dementia.
In this article, we’ll help you understand more about the numbers behind the statistics, and the symptoms of dementia that may need further investigation by a medical professional.
Some statistical facts on dementia in Australia
By 2050 it is estimated that 1 million Australians will be living with dementia. That is almost triple the number of people living with dementia today. Here are some facts about people living with dementia in Australia based on research and statistical analysis:
- In 2015, 1 in 10 Australians over 65 (342,800 people) were living with dementia
- In 2015, 3 in 10 Australians over 85 (31% of over 85s) were living with dementia
- In 2020, it is predicted 400,000 Australian will be living with dementia
- $5 billion is spent on the care of people living with dementia in Australia today
- $21 billion is the predicted funding need by 2030 (source: abc.net.au > news > 2016-04-30)
What’s behind the increase in numbers?
There are multiple environmental and societal factors thought to be contributing to the increase in the number of people living with dementia. Many of the environmental factors are speculative and attracting research funding and include consumption of highly processed foods and food additives, increasing use of mobile technologies and air and water pollutants.
We’re all living longer lives post employment years. Research indicates that we’ll continue to live longer lives year on year as medical research and technology advances donate years of life to us.
Our parents and their parents worked right up until a few years before the median life expectancy ages for their generations. They didn’t have the luxury of decades of years with less work related commitments. At the same time, they were perhaps less sedentary in terms of physical work and exertion and more active socially and mentally closer to end of their lives.
At our Retirement Communities Australia (RCA) retirement villages, we’ve purposefully developed our villages to have Active Health programs, as well as an Active Management program – all the activities of which contribute to keeping our senior residents bodies and minds active, and social.
What are some of the symptoms of dementia?
Dementia is a collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. ‘Collection of’ is important. Someone with a tendency to seem to always be losing their keys or forgetful in putting names to faces without other signs, is unlikely to be experiencing a cognitive disorder.
I’m a couple of decades away from 65, and for as long as I can remember I’ve been hunting down my lost keys – even back in the days when I was an academic achiever. Mind you, dementia does happen in younger people too.
There are many different forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease to name just a few.
Each has different causes, and different symptoms. Remember, dementia is a collection of symptoms. Signs and symptoms in isolation are unlikely to indicate dementia.
Receiving a diagnosis of dementia is complicated as there are many other conditions that are dementia like. Someone with dementia will demonstrate symptoms in at least two other areas than memory decline.
Here are some of the early signs of dementia:
- Short term memory loss that is frequent and progressive: not remembering something that happened yesterday or earlier in the day.
- Confusion that is frequent and progressive: losing a word or words, forgetting a loved one’s name or losing a learned complex but routine skill such as how to drive a car.
- A change in personality: uncharacteristic behaviour that is occurring more frequently.
- Humour seems to be lost on them, frequently: not understanding a joke, sarcasm or an analogy or turn of phrase.
- Withdrawal and apathy: the symptoms experienced can be confusing, frustrating and frightening. People that were otherwise social may become apathetic and withdrawn.
- Everyday tasks become increasingly challenging: at a more progressive stage of dementia, someone may find themselves lost as to how to put on a shirt, or load the dishwasher.
Be sensitive in how you approach a loved one that is demonstrating a frequency of, and collection of potential signs and symptoms. Encourage them to seek some medical advice early. It may not be dementia, it could be a treatable condition.
The earlier the diagnosis, the better the access to help, support, information and medication before dementia progresses further.
Where can you go to find out more about dementia and your concerns
Alzheimer’s Association – alz.org/au/
Alzheimer’s Australia – fightdementia.org.au
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – aihw.gov.au
National Dementia Hotline – 1800 100 500 (via Alzheimer’s Australia)
My Aged Care – myagedcare.gov.au
For more information on how RCA Retirement villages support active senior lifestyles
Image: courtesy of Flickr.com / ZaCky