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It’s time we started talking about Alzheimer’s

An innovative campaign is being launched today (September 2) encouraging people to talk to their doctor as soon as possible if they are concerned about unusual behaviours, which might be the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease.

Some examples of these behaviours are depicted in a television commercial and campaign posters. The advertising show images such as toothpaste on a razor, a hair brush in the dishwasher and a burning book in a toaster. This dramatization of some of the signs of dementia is designed to invite viewers to examine whether they apply to themselves, or someone they know.

The campaign, led by Alzheimers New Zealand, encourages people to be more open about dementia and overcome the sense of anxiety that can lead to a delay in seeking medical help, Alzheimers New Zealand executive director Catherine Hall says.

The message is “the sooner we know the sooner we can help” because a timely diagnosis will often mean a person can keep living independently for much longer, Hall says.

“People typically live with the diagnosis of dementia for many years, and a significant portion of this time can be at home. With a timely diagnosis, people with dementia, their family and carers can start taking practical steps such as developing a care plan and arranging legal and financial matters.

“A range of support is available for those with dementia their families and carers, much of which can only be accessed once a diagnosis has been made. Medical and therapeutic interventions may also help some people and these are generally more effective the earlier they are used,” she says.

A website www.wecanhelp.org.nz. provides information about dementia and a comprehensive directory of local dementia support.

The campaign is being launched in September, which is World Alzheimer’s Month and includes World Alzheimer’s Day on 21 September.

Ends

Notes to the editor

Early signs that someone may have dementia
The start of dementia is very gradual and often this stage of dementia is only apparent when looking back. At the time it may be missed or put down to "old age" or work pressure. Not all of these features will be present in every person. Early symptoms can include:
• an unwillingness to try new things or an inability to adapt to change
• losing interest in hobbies and activities
• loss of initiative
• being irritable and easily upset
• showing poor judgment and making poor decisions
• repeating oneself
• memory loss which affects job skills
• difficulty performing familiar tasks
• problems with language
• time and place disorientation
• problems keeping track of things
• repeatedly misplacing things and putting them in inappropriate places
• changes in mood and or personality
- Source: Alzheimers New Zealand website

About Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Dementia occurs as a result of physical changes in the brain, which can affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. In New Zealand, it is estimated that more than 48,000 people have dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia accounting for between 50% and 70% of cases.

Alzheimers New Zealand urges the government to recognise dementia as the most serious health crisis to be faced this century. Dementia needs to be made a national health priority in New Zealand, to adequately fund the sector and to best prepare for the significant costs of dementia in the future.

The number of people with dementia is growing dramatically due to an aging population combined with the fact people are living longer and it is estimated by:
• 2030: 88,309 people will have dementia.
• 2040: 120,423 people will have dementia.
• 2050: 147,359 people will have dementia.
Diagnosis is also being made at an increasingly younger age, sometimes in people as young as 45.


About Alzheimers New Zealand

A not-for-profit organisation, Alzheimers New Zealand represents people with dementia, their carers and families and whānau, through advocacy, awareness raising, and providing information such as resources, a library and the quarterly publication Alzheimers News. It also supports the work of Alzheimers New Zealand’s 21 member organisations, which provide assistance for people with dementia and their family, whānau and carers in communities throughout New Zealand.

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