EARLY detection is the key to tackling dementia from both a medical and social point of view, experts say.
Eastern Health marked Dementia Week — which runs until Friday — by urging Knox residents to take notice of the changes that could be happening in their brains.
However, Eastern Health geriatrician Sam Scherer said people should not necessarily jump to conclusions if they found they were forgetting things. "Not all forgetfulness is dementia — some of it is just normal ageing. If it gets more than mild — like if you're missing appointments or repeating yourself numerous times — then you should see a doctor," he said.
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease which accounts for 50 to 80 per cent of all cases.
Dr Scherer said there was still no definitive test for dementia and the sufferer generally worked it out with a multidisciplinary team. "It's not like with diabetes and taking a blood sugar level and saying it's over six, you've got it, or it's under six and you're fine."
He said early diagnosis was vital so that the appropriate medication — although it was not guaranteeed to work — could be prescribed, as well as providing appropriate support following the diagnosis.
Dr Scherer said while medical experts didn't understand the whole question of what caused the disease, they did know how to help slightly decrease the risk of getting dementia.
He said it was a combination of genetics and environment, and that leading a healthy lifestyle could potentially help.
Dr Scherer said Australia had one of the best systems of support and medical care for dementia sufferers. "There are lots of services like Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) which can all click in as the disease gets more serious," he said.
Eastern Health's cognitive, dementia and memory service team leader Eli Chu said having a support network was vital. There were also plenty of services available to help the patient and their family and friends with the diagnosis.
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