When most people hear the word ‘dementia’, the first thing they think of is ‘memory loss’. And while dementia does cause memory loss, it is so much more than a memory problem. Dementia causes a progressive deterioration in several brain functions. People living with dementia will gradually lose their ability to perform day-to-day tasks. Some people will experience hallucinations or changes in their behaviour. In end-stage dementia, there will often be a physical deterioration with loss of ability to speak, move and eat. It is this physical decline that makes dementia a terminal illness.
Dementia is the leading cause of death for women in Australia and the second leading cause of death overall. It is the leading cause of disability for people over the age of 65. Dementia is more prevalent and occurs at younger ages among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
Services for people living with dementia are very limited in rural and remote Australia. This impacts on the diagnostic process, as well as management and support once the diagnosis is made.
Our research shows that general practitioners (GPs) often lack confidence in the diagnosis and management of dementia in primary care. Specific education about dementia during training is very limited.
So there is an imbalance between demand (a prevalent condition with limited resources in rural and remote Australia) and supply (a lack of formal training for health professionals in the diagnosis and management of dementia).
Stephanie Daly, Marita Long and I are GPs and medical educators who have been working with Dementia Training Australia (DTA) to produce education resources for GPs and practice nurses to broaden their knowledge and confidence in caring for people living with dementia.
Prior to COVID-19, most of our education was delivered via face-to-face workshops and seminars. With the advent of lockdowns, we needed to get creative in the way we presented our information. Making education engaging and enlivening has long been a passion of mine, so the chance to move beyond ‘death by Zoom webinar’ was an exciting challenge.
DTA’s GP education team have produced a podcast, Dementia in Practice, as a way of further sharing important information about dementia.
We wanted to create something that would speak to listeners’ hearts as well as their minds. A podcast is the perfect medium for this. We have interviewed people living with dementia and their carers, as well as experts in the field. While the podcast was originally designed for health professionals, anyone whose life has been touched by dementia will find something of interest.
Dementia in Practice can be found wherever you get your podcasts. Episodes are just 30 minutes long and of a conversational nature.
DTA has also developed a suite of other GP-friendly dementia resources which can be found at https://dta.com.au/general-practitioners/