What is dementia?

This week is Dementia Action Week 2020!

Many of us have heard the term dementia, but what does this actually mean for a person who has received this diagnosis? Dementia is caused by conditions that affect a person’s brain and can have various impacts on the way that they communicate, think and plan and perform their activities of daily living.

Dementia can affect both younger and elderly people and its prevalence is growing, so it is important as patients, family, healthcare providers and members of the community that we know how to support people to promote good physical and mental wellbeing.

How does dementia present?

(Dementia Australia, 2020)

Dementia will look different for every person, depending on the condition and where it has affected their brain. It is important that people living with dementia continue to complete their activities of daily living, with support as needed.

People living with dementia will have goals and aspirations and should be supported to work towards these.

This will look different for every person. For example, a person may want to continue to live at home independently and may need assistance with medications or showering. It is important that we take the time to hear the person living with dementia’s needs, wants and goals.

The role of the physiotherapist working with people living with dementia is huge! We are so fortunate as health professionals to be able to work with patients and their families in different settings, including their homes.

People living with dementia may have reduced mobility, increased risk of falling and reduced ability to perform their activities of daily living. There is evidence that an exercise program may help to improve a person’s ability to perform their activities of daily living (Forbes et al., 2015, Cochrane Review). Physiotherapists are able to design an exercise program that is specific to the patient’s goals and needs.

We collaborate with family members and other healthcare professionals including Occupational Therapists to ensure that people can remain as independent as possible in their homes.

There is also emerging evidence that physical activity may reduce your risk of developing dementia by increasing the blood flow to your brain and keeping these cells healthy (Dementia Australia, 2015). Just another reason why it is important to continue to find 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week!