Australians fear what they don’t know

A new report released today shows how unaware and fearful Australians are of dementia.

By Yasmin Noone

Four out of five Australians are unaware that dementia is a terminal illness, although more than 60 per cent of the nation’s adult population are fearful of developing the disease, new research shows.

The newly released report, Dementia is everybody’s business, has revealed that the community is generally unaware of what it means to have Alzheimer’s disease although they are very afraid of it and other dementia-related illnesses. 

The research, developed by Alzheimer’s Australia and supported by Pfizer Australia, shows that over half of the population do not know that they are able to reduce their risk of getting dementia-related disease through preventative measures like keeping mentally and socially active, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

Of those who were aware, most were aged fifty plus. There was also a discrepancy between what interviewees believed they should be doing and what they were actually doing to prevent the onset of dementia.

More than 50 per cent of population were also reported as being generally unaware of the medications available to help them cope with the disease.

CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees, said that this research highlights the dire need for more education programs to raise the community awareness about the impact of dementia, treatment options for dementia and preventative measures to delay its onset.

“The pervading thought about the dementia is that it is hopeless and once you are diagnosed with it, nothing can be done,” said Mr Rees.

“The reaction to cancer in last 50 years was to seek out a solution. It was the same response to AIDS and diabetes but dementia hasn’t generated the same sort of policy response.

“I assume that people think that dementia is a natural part of ageing. For whatever reason, it hasn’t captured the imagination of the people.”

This report, he said, shows that too many Australians have a fairly limited understanding of dementia, the associated memory issues and information about risk reduction approaches and treatments.

“We also don’t focus on the positives about the disease or the fact that dementia develops possibly 20 years before a diagnosis.

“While it is associated with old age, it is possible to say that the disease develops years before. With better medication [in the future], there’ll be opportunities to intervene earlier in life.

“If you put all that together it’s a pretty colourful pointer towards the need for awareness programs and activities to help people understand the disease better.”

According to the report, at least 16 per cent of Australians believe they know someone who could have dementia, but has not yet sought diagnosis or treatment. Among carers, this figure rose to 41 per cent.

President of Alzheimer’s Australia, Ita Buttrose, stressed the need for a community and political response to the dementia epidemic, which should include greater investment in research and support services and awareness campaigns. This, she said, would do a great deal to remove the community’s fear around the disease.

“With an estimated one million cases of dementia expected by 20509, we need to educate the public now to ensure adequate support for people living with dementia,” Ms Buttrose said.

“Dementia may start to develop 20 years before any signs and symptoms begin to show. We need to look after ourselves in our 30’s, 40’s and 50’s before we get ‘old’. There is increasing evidence that supports the link between healthy lifestyles and a healthy brain so we can all try to reduce our risk.

“Early diagnosis is important and while there is no cure, medicines can help in the management of symptoms. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the sooner a person can receive treatment and make a difference to their quality of life.”

Tags: aged-care, alzheimers-australia, dementia, dementia-is-everybodys-business, ita-buttrose, pfizer-australia,

1 thought on “Australians fear what they don’t know

  1. ====================================================
    Dementia certainly is everybody’s business.
    I’ve had more Seniors moments than I can remember…
    So before I forget – Good-Onya Ita and TEAM – Love ya all
    You are all wonderful in my eyes as a demented Carer.
    Your website is a user-friendly, Deep-Well of insight
    Full of much practical, helpful, downloadable Info.
    I particularly recommend >>> “Mind your Mind” > KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK ALZHEIMER’S AUSTRALIA

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