Brain health is the cornerstone to meaningful longevity and quality of life. Up to half a million Australians are living with dementia – and it is projected to increase to 1.1 million people by 2058. Approximately 7 per cent of all people with dementia are under the age of 65. The preferred term/phrase when talking about a person with dementia under 65 is younger onset dementia.”
Dementia Australia emphasises that when talking about dementia It is important to know that dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease.
“Dementia may affect thinking, communication, memory and in some instances behaviour, and/or the ability to perform everyday tasks and in time it will impact on the person’s family, social and working life.
Technology is a vital part of tracking and monitoring cognitive health. Dementia Australia has launched a free mobile app, BrainTrack, that helps people to privately monitor and better understand suspected changes in their cognition over time. If they have concerns, they can then share the results with their GP and use it as a conversation starter to support an earlier dementia diagnosis.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said BrainTrack helps individuals explore common cognitive concerns and provides brain health information through fun, travel-themed games that have been adapted from validated cognitive testing.
“Users are prompted to log-in monthly to play the games and within the app can easily generate a pdf report of the results that can be emailed to their GP,” Ms McCabe said.
“While not intended to replace a formal cognitive assessment, BrainTrack supports the early identification of cognitive changes over time that may warrant further testing.”
Encouraging people to talk to their GP as soon as they have concerns may lead to an earlier diagnosis of dementia which then empowers and enables people living with dementia, their families and carers to better understand dementia and to manage their diagnosis on their terms.
“I encourage everyone interested in exploring more about their brain health to download BrainTrack and for GPs and other treating healthcare professionals to encourage their patients who have concerns about their cognition to do so too,” Ms McCabe said.
Dementia Australia Honorary Medical Advisor Associate Professor Michael Woodward AM, Director and Clinical Head of Aged Care Research and Director, Memory Clinic for Austin Health said the right support at the right time can enable people with dementia to maintain their independence and functional capacity for as long as possible.
“Health and allied health professionals play an important role in helping people living with dementia to live well for longer,” Assoc Prof Woodward said.
“By assessing physical and cognitive issues they can provide interventions to support the maintenance of current strengths and capacities, improve skill acquisition and promote recovery, enablement and rehabilitation.
“The more GPs and healthcare professionals know and understand about dementia and how Dementia Australia’s support and programs, including post-diagnostic services, can wrap around their patient, the better the system and health care experience will be for all.”
BrainTrack was developed with the Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A²I²), Deakin University and funded by the Australian Government.
BrainTrack has been awarded a research grant by the Medical Research Future Fund – Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care initiative which will evaluate its use and whether it’s associated with improvements in knowledge and help-seeking in relation to brain health.
Professor Alison Hutchinson, School of Nursing and Midwifery and Director of the Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research in the Institute for Health Transformation, Deakin University said to be able to explore delaying decline, dementia needs to be diagnosed early.
“However, up to 76 per cent of Australians diagnosed with dementia have already advanced beyond the early stage by the time of their diagnosis,” Prof Hutchinson said.
“If we find using BrainTrack increases awareness of brain health and prompts individuals to seek help for cognitive concerns then many vulnerable Australians may be supported earlier.
BrainTrack is available for download for free through the Apple App Store or Google Play. For more information, please visit dementia.org.au/braintrack-app or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit dementia.org.au.
Dementia Language Guidelines
Dementia Australia has developed a guideline to help know the facts about dementia. Here is an extract:
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, nor is memory loss the only symptom. Dementia can affect language, planning, problem solving, behaviour, mood and sensory perception. Talking about dementia in a negative manner or by using incorrect terminology or inaccurate facts can reinforce stereotypes and further exacerbate the myths and misinformation about dementia.
Everyone’s experience of living with dementia is unique, as there are many different types of dementia and symptoms may present differently in different people. You can find more information about dementia at dementia.org.au
Don’t be afraid to ask Individuals and families will express their experiences of dementia in ways that has meaning and significance to them. Not everyone will wish to have their experiences with dementia described in the same way. Where possible, ask that person directly. We can respect the dignity of each individual by respecting that person’s wishes regarding use or non-use of certain terms relating to dementia.
It is important to accurately reflect that dementia is an umbrella for the symptoms and that there are many different forms of dementia, each with its own cause. Senile dementia is an outdated term that used to be used when it was thought that memory loss or other cognitive impairment was a normal part of ageing, rather than being caused by specific types of disorders of the brain.