Hearing ’The D Word’ for the first time is tough. Catherine Schulte offers some sage advice for those supporting a family member with dementia.

Dementia is a harsh condition, and commonly mistaken for a run-of-the-mill elderly age norm.

According to Alzheimer’s Australia WA CEO Rhonda Parker, dementia is the umbrella term for a number of neurological conditions, where the major symptom includes a global decline in brain function.

“Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia, often beginning with lapses in memory and difficulty in finding the right words for everyday objects,” she says.

Dementia is also not confined to those who are elderly. Younger people can develop it too. According to Alzheimer’s Australia, 25,000 younger Australians are living with early-onset dementia.

Dementia can either be a prolonged hardship, with some patients experiencing symptoms for over 10 years, yet others can experience rapid onset dementia. This means the patient develops symptoms much faster than the average person dealing with the condition. Rapid-onset dementia can be very distressing for families and carers, as they can deteriorate over the space of a year.

Having a family member with the illness can be disconcerting at first. You might not be sure what to do or who to contact. Perhaps you don’t know how to navigate the services. Or you may not feel completely supported when you’re trying to support someone else with the condition. And usually, by the point of diagnosis, the condition has become well-established in the person diagnosed, so you’ve already been witnessing some deterioration of the person you’re caring for.

Looking after someone with dementia can be overwhelming and difficult, so having the right support is not only crucial for the dementia patient, but for you as the carer. Don’t forget there is help there for family members and friends of those who suffer from dementia. As patient numbers grow, so do the resources available to you.

Dementia Australia has been launched to provide a peak body for people of all ages living with Dementia, with all forms of the condition, anywhere in Australia, and for their families and carers too.

This is significant, as prior to this there were several support bodies and different services available. This consolidates the information available.

The Dementia Australia website contains links to the following resources:

Support to anyone with any type of dementia, their families and carers

  • Help sheets for commonly raised issues
  • Resources such as videos, fact sheets, guides, toolkits, help sheets, translated information, and other useful resources
  • Definitions on dementia, symptoms, causes and memory loss.

The National Dementia Helpline is also open nationally from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays). You can call them on 1800 100 500.

South Eastern Community Connect is dedicated to offering respite for carers of people living with dementia, and quality support to those with a diagnosis. Our Dementia Day Centre in Rushcutters Bay has a number of programs running throughout the week. Simply call the manager on (02) 8971 9012 or 0423 082 650, or email now.

We also offer a number of other programs for seniors and their carers, including a Flexible Respite service. Call Irene on (02) 8338 8506.

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