Dementia scourge in our future
DEMENTIA'S grip on the Ipswich community will tighten over the next 40 years as the mentally debilitating disease becomes more prevalent among the population.
Figures collated by Ozcare indicate just under 1500 Ipswich residents had been diagnosed with dementia, with 68 new cases identified last year.
This number is expected to increase by 550% by 2050 to become Australia's third-biggest killer.
Ipswich dementia crusader Debbie Phipps and health care provider Ozcare have launched programs designed to alert people to the early signs and to educate those with the illness on how to cope with it.
Mrs Phipps has lobbied the Federal Government for $500 million over the next five years for crucial research. Last week she held the first of a series of workshops at the Blue Care Nowlanvil Aged Facility at Flinders View.
She said the seriousness of the illness was often lost on people, who thought it only affected the memory.
Her mother is a resident in the dementia ward at Nowlanvil and Mrs Phipps has watched the illness rob her of her personality.
"In the end you forget how to breathe. You forget how to walk. You forget how to eat and they don't swallow," she said.
"If it is diagnosed in its early stages a person can live for another 10 to 15 years. They can live quite well as long as they get the support."
Alzheimer's Australia community educator Maxine Tobias was the guest speaker at the workshop, and told the crowd how writing reminders on a whiteboard or post-it notes could help a dementia patient keep on top of daily tasks.
She said as with most health conditions, looking after yourself and keeping physically and mentally active could go along way to staving of dementia.
"Lifestyle can play a big part in whether you get dementia or not. The more you look after yourself as you get older the better you can be," she said.
Ozcare has a website dedicated to the illness and provides activities within the community, such as the Making Memories program held last month.
Dementia senior service co-ordinator Karen Constant said there was an increase in dementia cases in people under 65 years of age and among people with a history of alcoholism and drug addiction.
"As such, each and every person living in Ipswich needs to be aware of the signs of dementia and become more comfortable talking about the subject," she said.
"Early symptoms can be subtle and not immediately obvious. Signs include short-term memory loss with people repeating themselves a lot. Other common symptoms include confusion, withdrawal and changes in behaviour and personality."
- Keep the person with dementia active and occupied;
- Maintain high social interaction; get them out of the house regularly;
- Create a memory book of photographs, letters and newspaper clippings which can be referred to.