Forgetting names, appointments or why we came into a room is something we all do occasionally and is a normal part of ageing. Dementia is more pronounced than simple memory loss and includes symptoms like:
Feeling like your brain is fading.
Confusion with written and spoken words.
Putting things where they don’t belong.
Difficulty solving problems that you could in the past.
Finding conversations or storylines hard to follow.
Mood swings, confusion, lack of motivation, depression.
Feeling fearful about going out.
What to do?
New Zealand experts believe the early diagnosis is beneficial so contact your doctor if you or someone you care about experiences symptoms of dementia. Ask for an extended appointment and take a care partner, family/whānau member with you. Your doctor will use a range of diagnostic tests including a full medical to rule out other causes of symptoms. A test called a Mini-ACE may be used.
Who can help?
If you have dementia, you and your care partner will be allocated a contact person in the health system (often known as a navigator). This person will help you access the services and support you need, help you to plan ahead, stay connected with friends, and live your life well. Often they are based at your local Alzheimers New Zealand or Dementia New Zealand service. Their support and advice will be invaluable.
We can’t prevent dementia but there is growing evidence that if we eat healthily, exercise regularly, remain socially engaged and active and maintain good brain health, we can reduce the risk of developing it. We all want to live our lives as well as we can for as long as we can. This includes those affected by dementia.