HERE TO HELP: Dr Vaibhav Tyagi.
HERE TO HELP: Dr Vaibhav Tyagi. Trevor Veale

Why we need to be more concerned about dementia

DOCTOR Vaibhav Tyagi, the only geriatrician between Lismore and Port Macquarie, is pioneering a vital community movement to turn our region into a dementia-friendly and educated place.

Dr Tyagi is on the forefront of the disease, looking after dementia patients and conducting research into the area for more than a decade.

With statistics showing the disease is on a worrying upward trend, Dr Tyagi says there are a number of potentially harmful misconceptions surrounding the disease in our community.

"Dementia cases around the world are increasing because we are living longer. There are approximately 244 people who develop dementia everyday,” Dr Tyagi said.

"Roughly around 1400 people are living with dementia in the Coffs Coast region, and to give a comparative figure, this number is higher than Newcastle.”

Currently around 400,000 Australians are living with dementia, and this number is expected to rise above half a million by 2025.

It's the second leading cause of death and the first primary cause of disability in Australia, meaning the costs involved are enormous.

We are spending more than $14 billion through direct costs, and also indirect costs through the loss of productivity by the person diagnosed as well as carers who may have to take time off work.

Dr Tyagi said the most devastating cost of all is those that are intangible.

"Then there is the costs of suffering, emotional stress, fear, social isolation, and the impact on relationships and family,” he said.

"When I started 13 years ago, I was seeing my first person with dementia. She was a lady from Germany, and her husband just could not understand why she couldn't recognise him. She called triple 000 saying somebody had substituted her husband, that he is an imposter.

"Coming to terms with the way they behave becomes very challenging for the carer and often leads to carer stress.”

Dr Tyagi said one of the most common misconceptions is what dementia actually is.

"People equate dementia to forgetfulness. But it is much more than simple forgetfulness. There is something called cognition; which is how we think, troubleshoot, plan things, implement things, interact and more,” he said.

"When multiple areas of cognition are impaired then it is called dementia.”

He said other common misconceptions include that dementia cannot be prevented, and that it is not common, and there is a lack of understanding that there are various types of dementia which can manifest in different ways.

Because of these misunderstandings, Dr Tyagi will be running an information day for anyone interested in finding out more about the disease.

"A lot of seminars provide very complicated information. What a common person or carer needs is scientifically proven, evidence-backed, practical information which they can apply in the everyday care of a person.”

A total of 18 professionals from various backgrounds, such as optometrists, dietitians and more, will be speaking throughout the whole-day seminar titled Journey Through Dementia.

The seminar will cover a wide variety of topics from health-related issues to legal issues involved with dementia.

"Anyone who wants to reduce their risk of developing dementia, wants to learn what dementia is, and learn how to care for a patient should attend this seminar to benefit themselves and the community.”

Dr Tyagi will also be organising a health promotion group called Vibrant.

The September 21 seminar will be in Coffs Harbour. To register, phone 66500921 or 0434863701.

THE STATS:

- 400,000 Australians are living with dementia. Around 45% are males, 55% females.

- Around 500,000 Australians will be living with dementia by 2025.

- There will be 250,000 carers for someone with dementia by 2025.

- Around 50% of aged care residents have dementia.

- Australia is spending $14 billion on direct costs associated with dementia.



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