Alzheimer’s Australia to hold education sessions at Griffith Ex-Services Club

HELPING HAND: Scalibrini Village's Sudeshni Mani with resident John Martin. Their approach for dementia sufferers was to create a safe, welcoming environment that felt like home. Picture: Supplied.

HELPING HAND: Scalibrini Village's Sudeshni Mani with resident John Martin. Their approach for dementia sufferers was to create a safe, welcoming environment that felt like home. Picture: Supplied.

Alzheimer’s Australia will be holding a number of education sessions at Griffith Ex-Services Club.

The sessions were designed for families and friends who care for a person living with dementia, professional care workers and volunteers.

Organisers hoped to provide carers with an understanding of how dementia affects the person and impacts upon quality of life as well as improving everyday communication, identifying changes in behavior as well as finding out where to turn for support services and information.

Sharonne Pearce, behaviour and dementia advisor at Scalabrini Village said dementia described a broad set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, emotional regulation, problem-solving or language.

“Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by one or more diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease,” Ms Pearce said.

“Most of the diseases that cause dementia are progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse over time.

“Support is vital for people living with dementia and the help of families, friends, carers and qualified professionals can make a significant difference to their quality of life.”

The symptoms of dementia interfered with how a person normally functions in everyday life. 

“There are many different diseases that cause dementia and it depends on the disease and where the brain is damaged, as to what symptoms will present,” Ms Pearce said.

“At Scalabrini Village, our approach is to create a safe, welcoming environment that feels like home. We also encourage our residents to actively pursue interests and activities which provide a sense of purpose and meaning.”

While it was true that memory changed as people aged it was usually not to the extent that it would impact on a person’s ability to function in everyday life.

“Many factors will affect how our memories operate including stress, depression, tiredness and general physical health,” Ms Pearce said.

“Forgetfulness is normal, but being unable to remember significant events or people in your life is not.

“It's true that ageing is a risk factor for developing dementia but dementia is not a normal part of ageing.”

Three in ten people over the age of 85 have dementia. However, seven per cent of people with dementia are under the age of 65. In 2015, it was estimated approximately 25,100 people in Australia were living with younger onset dementia. 

For more information on the education sessions call Gail Longhurst at Alzheimer’s Australia NSW on (02) 8875 4640 or email nsw.education@alzheimers.org.au

People living with dementia could still engage in many meaningful and purposeful activities, it just might take them longer and they may need assistance.

“Enabling a person to engage in their interests and to make the most of their abilities is vital to caring well for a person living with dementia,” Ms Pearce said.

Current research suggested that healthy lifestyle choices played a role in reducing the risk of developing dementia.

“Research shows that everyday activities such as cooking can help to reduce stress-levels within people living with dementia as well as improve memory recall,” Ms Pearce said.

“For example, an elderly Italian Scalabrini Village resident living with dementia finds peace playing with flour and water replicating a happy and familiar memory of when she used to make her own pasta in her earlier years.

“Also, frequently held Italian singing sessions, where folk songs of the residents’ youth are sung, assists those living with dementia who haven’t spoken for months to join in and remember the words from the recesses of their minds, even if they can no longer communicate with their families.”

For further information and support please contact The National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

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