Did you know that dementia is the leading cause of death for Australian women? Here’s what else you may not know about the disease.
Just decades ago, dementia was a disease that wasn’t recognised as it is today. Seen by many as “a part of ageing”, diagnosis was often ignored – leaving the elderly at its helm without a hope for a cure, or the hope of being understood.
Fast forward to today, and a lot has changed. Dementia is now seen as the second-leading cause of death in Australians, and the leading cause of death in Australian women – surpassing heart disease.
So, why did it take so long for the world to prioritise such a prevalent disease? Let’s take a look.
A lack of knowledge in the 80s
Go back just four decades, and dementia was understood to be a rare condition. This is likely due to the fact that many people were suffering without a diagnosis – their forgetfulness and loss of self deemed a simple, albeit sad, part of “getting older”.
With a lack of curiosity into why some members of the elderly were facing such challenges, there were very few books on the disease, and even fewer journals with in-depth studies.
By the time the 90s rolled around, there was more interest in the field. The medication ‘donepezil’ was licensed for the treatment of Alzheimer's – the most common form of dementia, which affects around 70% of people with the disease.
However, this didn’t come without challenge. The progress brought about over-medicalisation of the disease, with a lack of professional accountability from many administering the medication.
A new age for aged care
In 2018, the Australian Royal Commission into aged care was launched. This was a game changer for the industry in Australia, signaling that now more than ever, care for the elderly is being monitored.
While the commission is not a sole investigating dementia, it’s following more than 5,000 complaints from aged care consumers, families, carers, aged care workers, health professionals and providers. These have revealed a number of areas which are lacking in the field.
When it comes to deepening the knowledge of those providing care, universities such as University of Tasmania are changing the game. The university is offering Australia’s first degree in dementia care.
For students who want to go beyond TAFE level qualifications, this offers the ability to become true experts in the field – understanding the biological factors that lead to the disease, as well as tactics for care.
With over 459,000 Australians living with dementia, and almost 1.6 million Australians involved in their care, understanding the growing disease is now more important than ever.
Bachelor of Dementia Care – University of Tasmania
Bachelor of Ageing and Dementia Studies – University of Tasmania
Creativity and Ageing – University of Tasmania
Diploma in Community Welfare and Wellbeing – University of New England