There are estimated to be 353,800 Australians living with dementia, including 25,000 with younger onset dementia (below the age of 65). Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, it is a chronic, progressive and terminal disease.
Dementia is the leading cause of age related cognitive decline (Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre, 2016), however other causes are possible, some completely reversible. Other causes can include:
- declining hormones
- thyroid dysfunction
- suboptimal nutrition
- social isolation
When cognitive decline is recognised early, there are opportunities to ensure further investigation, organise adequate support and monitoring to keep the person well at home avoiding hospitalisation, and to offer the carer support and education about the changes that may occur over time and strategies to manage such changes and for future planning.
General practice and primary care play vital roles in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia, from identification and diagnosis through to the ongoing management and care of people living with dementia.