Don't dismiss dementia symptoms as 'signs of aging'

SYMPTOMS of dementia should be explored right away and not dismissed as "just part of aging", researchers say.

A group of 23 experts has compiled a list of 109 recommendations to improve the way dementia is diagnosed and treated in Australia, including new practice guidelines for doctors.

Published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, the research paper says services for dementia diagnosis and treatment are inconsistent.

Their suggested guidelines emphasise the need for early diagnosis when a patient first raises an issue, rather than the dismissal of symptoms as "just part of aging".

The paper says people with possible dementia should be referred to a memory clinic, neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist.

Another recommendation is for patients with mild cognitive impairment to be reviewed after six to 18 months.

It was made because researchers found that each year 10% of people with mild cognitive impairment were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Other recommendations include introducing training programs for carers and ensuring health care professionals are properly trained to help understand Alzheimer's, read body language and know how to respond appropriately.

Considering drug-free interventions before prescribing medications is another recommendation.

"Non-pharmacological interventions should ideally involve engagement in activities that are enjoyable for the person with dementia and individualised support," the paper says.

It also says people with Alzheimer's and various other forms of dementia should not be prescribed antipsychotic medications as it increased the risk of adverse cerebrovascular conditions and could be fatal.

The National Health and Medical Research Council has backed the guidelines.

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