Some frequently asked questions about dementia.
If you would prefer to talk to someone, you can call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
If you need an interpreter you can contact the Helpline through the Telephone Interpreting Service on 131 450
I am worried about my memory, what should I do?
Finding out what is wrong is the first step to getting help. Have you become concerned about increasing lapses in memory, or other changes in your thinking or behaviour? Changes in memory and thinking have a number of possible causes that may include stress, depression, pain, chronic illness, medication or alcohol and sometimes early dementia. Major changes in memory are not normal at any age and should be taken seriously. If you are experiencing these kinds of difficulties, it is better to see your doctor sooner rather than later.
There is no single specific test that can show whether someone has dementia. A diagnosis is made by talking to you and perhaps a relative or friend to find out more about your difficulties with memory and thinking. You will also need a physical and neurological examination which will look at all other possible causes.
The earlier you act the better. Your symptoms may not be caused by dementia, but if they are, earlier diagnosis will be helpful. An early diagnosis means that you can have access to support, information and medication. People with a diagnosis of dementia should have an opportunity to participate in planning the rest of their lives and their finances as well as indicating their wishes regarding future care.
More information may be of use in Am I at risk?
I think my loved one has dementia. How do I convince him/her to see our doctor?
Remember that many conditions have symptoms similar to dementia, so it is important not to assume that someone has dementia just because some of the symptoms are present. Strokes, depression, alcoholism, infections, hormone disorders, nutritional deficiencies and brain tumours can all cause dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions can be treated.
The best place to start the diagnostic process is with the local doctor who, after considering the symptoms and ordering screening tests, may offer a preliminary diagnosis or refer the person to a neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist.
Some people may be resistant to the idea of visiting a doctor. In some cases, people do not realise, or else deny, there is anything wrong with them. This can be due to the brain changes of dementia that interfere with the ability to recognise or appreciate one’s memory problems. Others, with retained insight, may be afraid of having their fears confirmed.
One of the most effective ways to overcome this problem is to find a physical reason for a visit to the doctor, preferably a check-up for a symptom that the person is willing to acknowledge, such as headaches or failing eyesight.
Perhaps suggest an examination of the heart, a test for blood pressure or diabetes, or a review of long term medication. Another way is to suggest that it is time for you both to have a physical check up. Any expressed anxiety by the person is an excellent opportunity to suggest a visit to the doctor.
Be sure to provide a lot of reassurance. A calm, caring attitude at this time can help overcome the person’s very real worries and fears.
If the person will not visit the doctor:
- Talk with other carers who may have had to deal with similar situations
- Contact the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT)
- Call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500
For more information on talking with your doctor and working with doctors, see our Help Sheets section of the website.
What can Alzheimer's Australia do to help me?
Support can make a positive difference to managing dementia. We're here to provide the help you need, when you need it.
Alzheimer's Australia provides a range of sensitive and flexible services to support people with any type of dementia, their families and carers throughout the illness.
Services provided by Alzheimer’s Australia include:
- Information about dementia
- The National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500
- Support groups for people like you who have been diagnosed with dementia
- Private and confidential counselling
- Other programs and services in your area.
Services may differ slightly between state & territory organisations. Find out what support services are available in your area under the Services & Support section of the website.
I have difficulty with the English language. Do you have information that can help me?
Alzheimer’s Australia is also committed to ensuring that the needs of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are addressed in all aspects of service provision.
Dementia information is available in a number of community languages including; Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Latvian, Laotian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Tagalog, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. Information in these languages is available under the Information in other languages section of our website.
If you need assistance, phone the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
If you need an interpreter you can contact the Helpline through the Telephone Interpreting Service on 131 450.
Can I reduce my risk of getting dementia?
There are certainly ways to reduce the risk of getting dementia and although we can't guarantee that you won't get dementia even if you 'do everything right', studies of large groups of people do show that those who adopt 'brain-healthy' lifestyles have a reduced risk of developing dementia.
The biggest risk factors for dementia are getting older and your genes - things you can't do anything about. So, it is important to do what you can with the things you can control - your lifestyle and habits.
Adopting the Your Brain Matters lifestyle may reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Also see our Your Brain Matters website for more useful information.
What is some of the latest research in Alzheimer's disease?
Researchers are continually searching for new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The potential treatments are in the early stages of research and are not currently available, but they are all part of the research effort to find more effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and ultimately a cure.
Some of the research being conducted into potential treatments include;
- Alzheimer’s vaccines and immunotherapy
- Gene therapy
- Targeting beta-amyloid production.
For more information, see the section on Research into dementia treatments and cure.
I have a young child who wants to know what is happening to their grandparent. How do I handle this?
The most important way to help children or grandchildren cope with dementia is to talk openly and be willing to listen. They need the opportunity to ask questions and express their feelings without fear of a negative reaction.
For more information, see the Help Sheets section on young people and dementia.
I'd like to learn more about how to care for my loved one with dementia. Do you offer a course I can attend?
Education and Training courses provide valuable skills and support, and complement Alzheimer's Australia's other services. We offer timely skills and knowledge in a supportive environment. Our educators are highly qualified and their experience in providing dementia care means they understand your needs.
Our Education & Training section provides information about the courses families and carers can attend in each state or territory. Visit your state or territory Education and Training website pages and look through the list of courses which best suit your needs.
For more information call our National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.