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18th August 2020 Latest News

Ask an expert: dementia

Monica Cations   dementia

Do you have questions about dementia? Learn more from Dr Monica Cations.

Sadly, most people have seen the debilitating affects of dementia on a loved one.

Dementia is a complex condition and we realised that many people have some really basic questions, so we Asked An Expert.

Dr Monica Cations is a THRF Early-Career Fellow based at Flinders University who has worked with older people with dementia in both clinical and research roles for many years.

What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term referring to over 100 different diseases, all with different causes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, consisting of about 70 per cent of all cases.

Is there a cure for dementia?

Unfortunately no. Dementia is a progressive and fatal condition. There are medications and non-drug treatments which can slow the progression of the symptoms, but they are not curative. Many researchers are working on a cure locally and across the globe.

If my parent has dementia, does that mean I’ll get it?

Not necessarily. It is true that if you have a parent with dementia you have an increased risk of developing it yourself, but your genes are not your destiny. Dementia is caused by a very complex interplay of genetic and non-genetic factors, so there are lots of things within your control to reduce your risk of developing dementia.

Like what?

The most important thing is to look after your heart. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and get regular checks for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Whatever is good for your heart is also very good for your brain! Also, keep socially engaged with family and friends to protect against cognitive decline.

I’ve been getting forgetful lately, does that mean I’ll get dementia?

Forgetting things is a completely normal part of getting older! It is more concerning when you and your family notice quite significant memory loss, things like losing your way on a route you’ve travelled many times before, or maybe repeating yourself many times in a short period of time. This is when you should see a GP and get checked out, there could be other things at play too.

Why do people with dementia get so cranky?

We all get cranky! But sometimes it’s more difficult for people with dementia to tolerate the feelings that come with feeling angry and cranky, and so might act out in ways that you and I might not. The person might be in pain or hungry, cold or lonely, and not be able to effectively communicate that to you.

What is the best way to care for someone with dementia?

Caring for a person with dementia can be very challenging, but also very rewarding. Try and be as patient as you can. Try not to argue with the person or challenge them, even if you know what they’re saying is wrong or you’ve heard it 100 times already! And be sure to seek out support yourself.

With THRF’s support, Dr Cations is able to progress her research on improving care for people with dementia. If you’d like to contribute to life-changing research into dementia, click here