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We can do more to tackle dementia: experts

We can do more to tackle dementia: experts - Featured Image

The medical profession could do more to ensure practitioners involved in dementia care are well informed about what can be done for patients, authors of an editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia have said.

Dr Terence Chong and his co-authors Dr Samantha Loi, Prof. Nicola Lautenschlager and Prof. David Ames from the Academic Unit for Psychiatry of Old Age at the University of Melbourne and NorthWestern Mental Health, part of Melbourne Health write that there have been recent advances in dementia research, particularly in the area of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

However they said that diagnosis delays and a failure to make the most of existing resources remain major concerns for patients, families, carers and health professionals.

Related: Survey identifies key dementia research priorities

“The introduction of the federal government-funded, state-based Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Services,  the initiation of severe behaviour response teams, and increased funding for research should be applauded, but there needs to be greater coordination of service delivery systems for patients and carers at every stage, from prevention through to end-of-life care, and the medical profession needs to do more to ensure that all existing and trainee practitioners are well informed about what we can do for people with dementia right now,” Chong and his colleagues wrote.

AD is the most common form of dementia in Australia, affecting 50-70% of the 343,000 dementia sufferers in Australia.

There are drugs licensed for the treatment of AD that have “modest but measurable benefits for some patients”.

They wrote that the identification of risk factors in the intervening 10 to 20 years before clinical signs of cognitive impairment could help reduce risk of developing dementia.

Related: Susan Kurrle: Dementia strategies

They wrote: “the evidence is now strong enough to support personalized recommendations for risk reduction by increasing levels of education in young adulthood, increasing physical, cognitive and social activity throughout adulthood, reducing cardiovascular risk factors including diabetes in middle-age, through lifestyle and medication, treating depression, adopting a healthy diet and physical activity, avoiding pesticides and heavy air pollution and teaching avoidance of all potential dangers to brain health while enhancing potential protective factors”

Read the full editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Podcast: Professor Nicola Lautenschlager, head of Psychiatry of Old Age at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Terence Chong, a research fellow and psychiatrist, discuss advances and challenges in the treatment of dementia, to coincide with their editorial in the MJA.