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In our 2017 survey Awareness and Understanding of Dementia in New Zealand we asked 750 New Zealanders whether they agreed with a number of statements about dementia.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect how well our brains work. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia can affect everyone and as people get older the chances of getting dementia increase. However, people as young as their 40’s and 50’s can develop dementia.
The symptoms each person experiences depends on the parts of the brain that are affected. However, the most common symptoms include changes in memory, thinking, behaviour, personality and emotions. These changes affect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks and may interfere with their everyday lives.
We need New Zealanders to understand that dementia is a result of physical changes in the brain, not a natural part of ageing.
Three in ten of survey participants thought that the correct answer was true and seven in ten thought that it was false.
Research is helping us to understand more about the disease and risk factors. But at this point unfortunately we have no cure. We found that about three of ten people thought that this statement was true, six in ten thought that it was false and one in ten didn’t know.
Men (35%) and younger respondents (46% of those under 30) are more likely to think that the statement is TRUE. We also asked people whether they agreed that the Government could do more to support research.
80% THOUGHT THAT IT WAS IMPORTANT THAT THE GOVERNMENT FUND MORE RESEARCH INTO DEMENTIA
DEMENTIA IS A TERMINAL CONDITION.
Most people did not know dementia was fatal. 54% of people thought that the answer to this question this was false.
PEOPLE 60 & OVER WERE LESS LIKELY 35% TO THINK THAT DEMENTIA IS FATAL
There is mounting evidence about the value of healthy living in reducing the risk of dementia.
We asked New Zealanders how confident they were that they could reduce their risk of developing dementia by certain actions. Encouragingly the results show high levels of confidence in lifestyle changes...
84% OF PEOPLE WERE CONFIDENT ABOUT DOING MENTALLY STIMULATING THINGS LIKE PUZZLES OR LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE.
Dementia can affect anyone, and as people get older the chances of developing dementia increase. And the most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease – which around two-thirds of people with dementia have.
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of people were confident about eating a healthy diet. Women were more confident (79%) than men (70%).
of people were confident about having an active social life. People over 60 (79%) were more confident than younger people (64%).
were confident that about maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
were confident about drinking moderate amounts of alcohol.
were confident about maintaining not smoking.
83% SAID IT WAS IMPORTANT THAT THE GOVERNMENT PROVIDE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HOW PEOPLE COULD REDUCE THEIR RISKS FOR DEMENTIA.
Recent studies show that around a third of cases of dementia are potentially attributable to preventable risk factors, for example addressing issues such as hypertension and obesity in middle life, and reducing smoking, improving physical activity and social connections in later life.
If you didn’t get a perfect score, you are not alone as you can see from the results of our survey. There is definitely more work to be done so that New Zealanders have a better understanding of dementia.
Close to half of the respondents said they either did not know much or knew hardly anything about dementia. Women and those 60 years of age and older were more likely to say that they knew a lot or a fair amount about dementia.
45% OF PEOPLE SAY THEY KNOW LITTLE ABOUT DEMENTIA.
The care and support of people with dementia is one of New Zealand’s most significant and growing healthcare challenges, and one that will only grow as our population continues to grow.
Potential benefits of change:
New models of care that might delay entry into residential care could achieve cost benefit ratios of 6.6 times. The potential net benefits of substituting community care for residential care are $22m per month.
the proportion of people who know or had known someone with dementia.
the proportion of people for whom the person they know or had known was a family member.
of respondents said that they were concerned about developing dementia. Those who have or had a family member with dementia were more likely to be concerned (54%).
We asked respondents how important they thought that it was important that the Government takes action to help address dementia in New Zealand.
said that it was important to support and train GPs to recognise and diagnose dementia earlier
said it was important to recognise dementia as a major health priority
said it was important to provide better support for local Alzheimers organisations
said that it was important to provide funding for groups that were trying to develop dementia friendly communities
81% SAID IT WAS IMPORTANT TO DO MORE TO SUPPORT PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA
The experience of dementia has a profound social impact on people living with dementia. Recent reports from England and Australia have highlighted the effect of the stigma associated with the condition including loneliness; being “cut-off” from society, depression, fear of the future, negative effects on their health, difficulty in accessing the support they need and concern about being a burden.
The reasons for this are complex. But some of these come from the way that even well meaning people think about and respond to people with dementia and their care partners.
agreed that people with dementia can be involved in their community activities such as weddings, social clubs or other social events
agreed that they personally would want to keep someone who was diagnosed with dementia involved in their social life
agreed that people with dementia could still enjoy life to the fullest
ONLY 10% AGREED THAT IF A MEMBER OF THEIR FAMILY WAS DIAGNOSED WITH DEMENTIA THAT THEY WOULD BE RELUCTANT TO TELL PEOPLE
agreed that people with dementia would be unlikely to spend as much time with their friends when they develop dementia
agreed that it is better if people with dementia were cared for in a residential unit or nursing home
agreed that people with dementia are unable to make decisions about their care
agreed that if they were in public with someone with dementia they would worry about how they may act
agreed they would find it hard to talk to someone with dementia
WHAT WOULD YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN?
Numbers of people with dementia in New Zealand have grown to over 62,000, and are expected to almost triple to over 170,000 by 2050. The economic costs of dementia are also rising rapidly - by 75 percent in five years – from $955 million in 2011 to $1.7 billion in 2016. These costs could rocket up to $4.6 billion in today’s dollars by 2050.
OVER 80% OF PEOPLE KNOW OR HAVE KNOWN SOMEONE WITH DEMENTIA.
Often this is a member of their family or a friend. Many people are concerned about how dementia might affect them in the future, either if they develop dementia
themselves or they have to care for someone with dementia. There are varying levels of knowledge about dementia. Our own experience tells us that when people are diagnosed with dementia they and their carers often find it difficult to work out how to find the help and assistance that they need.
We can’t afford to do nothing – and the blueprint for a model of care that would keep people healthier and living in the community for longer already exists in the New Zealand Framework for Dementia Care released in 2013.
navigation to ensure that people living with dementia have ready access to appropriate services
12 months post-diagnostic support services to equip people living with dementia with the tools, connections, resources and plans they need to live as well as possible, and to prepare for the future
high quality information resources that are easily accessible, consistent and regularly reviewed to represent ‘best practice’.
Other issues that Alzheimers New Zealand would like to see addressed as part of implementing the framework are:
It is also important to do more research to learn more about the disease; about how to prevent its development and how to cure it. We know that New Zealand spends less on research than many developed countries.