Need for greater dementia awareness

A report on Australian understandings and perceptions of dementia highlights the need for a greater public awareness of the condition to improve advanced care planning and to reduce stigma.

Almost three quarters of Australians say they would take a test to show if they were going to develop some form of dementia – if such a test existed.

The research published in the Pfizer Australia Health Report shows that on average, people want to know their personal risk by the age of 41. Women are more likely to want to know in advance than men.

The findings are based on responses from 1458 Australians aged 18 and over, to a survey conducted by independent consultants, Stollznow Research.

But while the number of Australians with dementia is expected to increase dramatically as the population ages, most people are doing little to prepare for it.

The research reveals that almost two thirds of Australians between 51 and 60 years of age have not discussed their future care arrangements with family or friends, and almost one in five do not have any legal or financial planning arrangements in place for later in life.

“It’s crucial that community attitudes start to change through people becoming better informed about the importance of advance planning for their health, their money and future care and how to set about it,” said Alzheimer’s Australia’s Executive Director, Mr Rees.

Sadly, just over one in two Australians feel that people with dementia are unfairly treated or discriminated against.

“This finding confirms the stigma surrounding dementia which needs to be overcome through improved public awareness and better access to support programs, which help people lead as normal a life as possible after diagnosis,” said Mr Rees.

While nine out of ten Australians feel there is something that can be done to reduce their risk of developing dementia, 48 per cent don’t know whether medication can help in treating the condition.

“These results argue strongly for a national initiative to promote a greater understanding of the contribution lifestyle changes may make to reduce the risk of dementia,” Mr Rees said.

But it was not all bad news. Eighty-four per cent of Australians believe that staying mentally active might help reduce their risk of developing dementia and 52 per cent believe reducing or quitting smoking may help to reduce their risk.

Just over two thirds of Australians believe that adopting a healthy lifestyle may help to prevent dementia, which includes eating a healthy diet, staying socially active and connected, and exercising regularly.

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