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Understanding dementia behaviours

by Elizabeth Harmon

In our previous blog, ‘Supporting people with dementia’, we explained what dementia is and shared four ways you can support people living with this illness. In our new blog, we’re delving deeper into this complex disease and sharing additional information to help you understand more about this disease which affects so many people in Australia each year.

Read on to discover how to identify whether someone may have dementia and find out how the seven main stages of dementia are defined.

What are the key signs of dementia?

Many people associate dementia with forgetfulness. While this is one potential indicator, there are many different signs which can point towards someone having dementia. Here are just a few warning signs you should look out for, whether you’re caring for a parent, or working as a Care Worker:

  • Experience some level of memory loss
  • Have difficulty performing familiar and straightforward tasks
  • Appear to be confused and disorientated
  • Have problems with communication such as speech and writing
  • Regularly misplace items such as keys
  • A worsening of decision-making and planning skills
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • A change in personality and mood
  • Become depressed and show signs of anxiety
  • Hallucinate or show signs of paranoia
  • Have issues with sleep
  • Become increasingly aggressive and irritable
  • Have a decreased level of mobility
  • Show changes in eating habits and weight gain/loss

Any of us could suffer from one of the above from time to time, as a result of too much stress or even tiredness. But the key is to look for people showing two or more signs as well as problems that are ongoing and that are starting to interfere with daily life. It’s important to remember that the symptoms that display can vary from one person to the next. They can also differ depending on the specific condition (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease) as well as what stage the dementia is at.

What are the 7 stages of dementia?

As dementia is a progressive disease, it’s crucial to be able to understand and identify how much dementia has progressed for an individual. This allows family members or carers to ensure symptoms are identified and managed carefully, and the correct level of care is provided at each stage.

The progression of dementia is often defined using the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia (GDS). This breaks dementia down into seven stages:

  • Stage 1 – No Dementia – No Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 2 – No Dementia – Very Mild Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 3 – No Dementia – Mild Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 4 – Early-stage Dementia – Moderate Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 5 – Mid-stage Dementia – Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 6 – Mid-stage Dementia – Severe Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 7 – Late-stage Dementia – Very Severe Cognitive Decline

Working with dementia patients

Caring for dementia patients can be extremely challenging, as you will come across a whole range of behavioural and psychological symptoms. You’ll also work with people at varying stages of the disease, including those with very severe cognitive decline. As there is currently no cure, it can be tough, but it can be enriching knowing that you’re supporting patients with their illness so they can live a happier and more fulfilled life.

Would you like to become a health professional that cares for individuals showing signs of dementia? Understand dementia behaviours better and develop the relevant skills you need to start a rewarding career working with dementia patients. Enrol in CHC33015 Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing, Home and Community) now where you’ll obtain a nationally-recognised qualification. This will help open career doors for you across Australia.

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