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Dementia Advocate Trevor Crosby discusses the importance of educating health professionals about the support available through Dementia Australia and other providers, in his most recent blog post.
“Over the last decade since being made aware of my cognitive impairment I have developed a great respect for the medical experts I have encountered.
My dementia diagnosis came five years after my first neurologist visit. It was the second neurologist who recognised my cognitive impairment was in fact Lewy body disease. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a diagnosis of dementia to take this amount of time and more than one specialist visit, an experience which can be financially and emotionally draining.
Had my diagnosis come sooner as well as accessing medication earlier I would have been eligible for Dementia Australia’s Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker program. Sixty-five is the cut off and I was over by a few months. What a shame!!
I have seen over the years there are opportunities for improved communication between GPs, practice nurses and specialists. Communication that should include increased levels of awareness about resources available to families living with dementia like the Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker Program and the Living Well with Dementia program, both of which I found to be excellent educational tools in developing strategies that fight the dementia battle. Key worker participants I know are unanimous in their praise for this program. Unfortunately, knowledge of these programs amongst health professionals doesn’t go far enough to maximise the benefits they could produce.
Dementia agencies often lack the funding to maximise communication around the available initiatives and services and more, we need a champion to grab this issue by the throat and recognise dementia for what it is – a killer rapidly reaching catastrophic proportions, cruel and indiscriminate.
GPs and practice nurses in many cases don’t know enough about dementia and can find broaching the subject with patients and their families’ difficult but early diagnosis is invaluable. There are medications available that can give short term relief and in some cases can reverse the acceleration of dementia in the short term. They won’t suit everyone but they have had a positive result for me so far.
Four years since my diagnosis and many of my dementia symptoms have stabilised during that period thanks to the early recognition, early diagnosis and appropriate medication.
So you can see that there are potential lifesaving initiatives available to help someone who at this stage is wallowing in a sea of despair, accepting death is around the corner, not willing to prepare for the battle let alone fight it.
Improvements in communication and education at all levels of dementia are essential in winning the battle against dementia. GPs and specialists must be part of this battle.”