Researchers believe they may have the key to helping people with dementia when they need to be hospitalised.
An estimated 436,000 Australians have dementia and that number is expected to increase due to an ageing population.
While countless studies and research projects are being conducted throughout the world, treatment to stop or even slow dementia remains elusive.
However, in Dementia Action Week, a team of researchers believes it may at least have the key to helping people with dementia when they need to be hospitalised.
A busy emergency department can be confusing for anyone, but for someone with dementia, the experience can be particularly confronting.
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher Dr James Hughes is about to trial a method to help make the emergency department experience smoother for dementia patients, The Age reports. The concept is very simple.
“They’re very simple kits. They have things in them like a puzzle, sudoku and word puzzles, some colouring, some activity devices. We have some music in there that’s generationally appropriate,” Dr Hughes said.
“There’s nothing in these packs that you couldn’t find at your local Woolworths or Big W, so putting them together or even tailoring them to the local population could happen almost immediately.”
He explained that the kits would be given to dementia patients at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital emergency department over the next 12 months to gauge whether the scientific evidence backed up the belief that the kits would calm a person with dementia and result in fewer sedations.
“An emergency department can be quite different to a nursing home or an acute care ward, so that’s really what we want to show by putting it in a research framework,” Dr Hughes said.
“They take about seven to 14 years to translate research into practice – this type of study could take weeks rather than years, because the items in the packs and the ability to give them to patients is very easy to do.”
Dr Hughes said that about one third of patients aged 70-plus who arrived at emergency departments had some form of cognitive impairment.
In Dementia Action Week, Dementia Australia has launched a survey to gauge community discrimination against people with dementia.
Dementia doesn’t discriminate. Do you? aims to evaluate the impact of discrimination on people with dementia, their families and carers.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said: “A person living with dementia might be ignored or dismissed in conversations.
“Sometimes people, without realising it, will talk directly to the carer as if the person living with dementia is not even there.
“Assumptions might be made about a person’s capacity to contribute to conversations, decision-making, whether they can still drive, cook or even continue to work. Friends and family might stop calling or inviting a person living with dementia to social occasions – not out of deliberate neglect but possibly out of not knowing how to include them.
“Our focus during Dementia Action Week will deepen the inquiry into discrimination and dementia.”
Research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that in 2016–17, there were about 94,800 hospitalisations of people who had at least one diagnosis of dementia. Of these hospitalisations:
- 52 per cent were of females
- 43 per cent were of people aged 85–94 and three per cent were aged under 65
- 71 per cent involved patients who lived in major cities, 28 per cent in inner regional and outer regional areas, and one per cent in remote and very remote areas
- 23 per cent involved patients who lived in the lowest socioeconomic areas; 17 per cent lived in the highest socioeconomic areas
- 17 per cent resulted in a new admission to residential aged care
- six per cent resulted in the patient dying in hospital.
The research also found that $20 million was spent on anti-dementia medications in 2016–17.
If you have dementia, have you experienced discrimination? Or do you treat a person with dementia differently?
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