A national campaign featuring a hard-hitting television commercial will be launched this week to increase awareness about help available for people living with dementia experiencing symptoms including aggression, irritability, agitation, vocalisations, and delusions.
The “Dementia affects us all” campaign by Dementia Support Australia (DSA) has a special focus on the growing number of people living with dementia being cared for in their own homes.
Figures released earlier this year by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show dementia is now the leading cause of disease burden for older Australians. About 70 per cent of people with the disease live at home, not residential aged care, and carers are unlikely to be aware of the services available.
The emotive television commercial created and produced in collaboration with Mindjam illustrates behaviours and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) through the story of a husband and wife who are living through the progression of the wife’s behaviours in their home and the stress it causes both before seeking help.
It also weaves in the role of the daughter, illustrating the important that adult children often play in reaching for support.
DSA, funded by the Australian Government and led by HammondCare, aims to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia who are experiencing BPSD through relationship-based case management.
The free service is dealing with a soaring number of referrals, with the 8108 cases in 2018 more than doubling to 18,091 in 2022. Referrals are climbing again this year.
The service has more than 300 trained consultants nationally available 24 hours a day. To contact the helpline, call 1800 699 799.
DSA Head of Dementia Professional Services Marie Alford said up to 90 per cent of people living with dementia will experience BPSD at some point in their journey with the illness.
“The campaign is deliberately confronting in its message to enable people to understand the importance of reaching out for help,” Alford said.
“There is a growing desire in the community and within government reform for older people to be cared for in their own homes rather than go into aged care – that is a great thing.”
“As part of this, the numbers of older people living with dementia at home will grow sharply.
“The aim of our campaign is to let carers know help is there when situations start to change, to reach out before you reach your limit.”
Alford said proactive engagement with DSA to support behavioural changes can reduce the risk of premature entry into hospital or residential aged care.
In conjunction with the campaign, geriatrician and Senior Research Fellow, The Dementia Centre, Professor Sue Kurrle presents a series of video resources, available online, offering advice for carers faced with different behavioural and psychological changes.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released in February this year estimated there were up to 354,200 unpaid carers supporting people living with dementia last year. These carers were often working up to 60 or more hours a week.
Professor Kurrle said carers, who are usually women, often found themselves stressed to breaking point.
“Accelerating behavioural symptoms can be the trigger point for carers to feel that they are not coping,” she said.
“These carers need to know DSA is there to help if you need it day or night.”
BPSD refers to the impacts that many people living with dementia will experience, including aggression, delusions, agitation, depression, vocalisations, disinhibitions, and night-time behavioural disturbances.
Most of these behaviours could be reasonably understood by knowing the person better, and understanding the impact of environmental, physical, and social factors. A frequent trigger for these behaviours is undiagnosed pain.
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