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September 2022

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Dementia Action Week: 19 - 25 September

Dementia Australia's Dementia Action Week is on again this September, and the theme this year is "A little support makes a big difference". The concept was developed in consultation with dementia advocates who have a lived experience of dementia. The campaign aligns with Forward with Dementia's message, that many people with dementia can continue to live well for many years after their diagnosis. 

Dementia Australia's Dementia Action Week website provides information and tips to encourage all Australians to increase their understanding of dementia and learn how they can make a difference to the lives of people around them who are impacted – and to help eliminate discrimination. These include simple and practical tips to:

  • Give a little support to a person living with dementia.
  • Give a little support to a carer, friend or family member of a person living with dementia.
  • Help healthcare professionals make their practice more dementia-friendly.
Visit the website and sign-up for news to support the Dementia Action Week campaign.

Support to stay at home after a dementia diagnosis

Forward with Dementia provides a wealth of information and practical actions to improve life after a dementia diagnosis for people living with dementia and their suporters. Thankfully, we’re not doing this alone. There are other organisations with similar objectives currently running post-diagnostic support programs including Dementia Support Australia, Dementia Australia and the Uniting War Memorial Hospital in Waverly, NSW.

Dementia Support Australia

Dementia Support Australia recently launched “Staying at Home” a free program for carers and people recently with dementia. Join other carers and people living with dementia in this peer-support program with different modes of delivery to suit your individual circumstances, including a three day/two night program and a day-only program (for two days). Experienced staff, including nurses and allied health clinicians will provide education, practical suggestions and tailored support.

Topics include:

  • Understanding more about the impact of dementia
  • An introduction to respite, including respite planning
  • How to access community care services
  • Looking after yourself
  • Planning for the future
  • Supporting behaviour changes associated with dementia
  • Support for transition into respite care
  • Meaningful engagement: how to continue enjoyable activities for longer
  • Managing physical changes: mobility continence, communication
  • Environmental impacts.
For more information on Staying at Home:

Dementia Australia

Dementia Australia offers six free support sessions for people diagnosed with dementia or mild cognitive impairment. Sessions are run with a skilled Dementia Australia staff member who will work with you to understand your specific situation and provide information and support based on what is most important to you.

The support, which is also available to family and carers, will help you to:

  • Increase your understanding of dementia
  • connect with support services and networks
  • develop personal and lifestyle strategies to live well
  • prepare and plan for any changes.

As part of this program, you can be referred to other national services including My Aged Care (MAC) or the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). For more information: 

Uniting iREADi Program

Integrated Rehabilitation for Early Stage Dementia, or the “iREADi” program, aims to improve the participation, wellbeing, and quality of life of people living with early-stage, mild dementia and their carers. It promotes knowledge and skills to help people live a good life with dementia and minimise the development of avoidable problems down the track.

iREADi delivers two components in parallel:

  • A 9-week, ability focussed group education program, with sessions facilitated by multidisciplinary clinicians and opportunities to get to know others in the group who are also adjusting to living with a new diagnosis of dementia
  • Interdisciplinary rehabilitation-focused on the attainment of 1 or 2 important life goals, as identified by the person living with dementia and their carer.

The iREADi approach is bio-psycho-social, anticipatory, rehabilitation-focused, and time-limited. It’s provided via a multi-disciplinary Management of Dementia team, commonly known as the MOD squad, including professionals in medical, nursing, clinical psychology and neuropsychology, speech pathology, social work, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dietetics, continence nursing and legal support.

The free program is currently held at the Uniting War Memorial Hospital in Waverley. Potential clients include those with mild, early-stage dementia and their carer/s who live in the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District. For more information: 

Dental health

Good oral health is vital for all Australians, but as we age, deteriorating health, cognition and mobility can make dental hygiene more challenging. Senior Australians are more vulnerable to oral diseases including tooth decay, gum disease and dry mouth (which can be a side effect of taking medication).

Poor oral health can cause pain, discomfort and infections, and can make it harder to eat a range of nutritious foods like crunchy fruit and vegetables. Poor oral health can lead to malnutrition, cause issues with socialising, increase the risk of poor health generally and complicate management of illnesses such as diabetes, chronic heart failure and respiratory diseases.

Preventing oral disease

It is important to make regular visits to your dentist (every six to twelve months) but you should also take the following steps to help prevent oral disease:

  • Maintain a healthy diet and limit sugary foods.
  • Drink water after meals and after taking medication.
  • Brush your teeth morning and night with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Make sure you brush your teeth, gums and tongue.
  • Keep your mouth moist with regular sips of water and consider saliva substitute if necessary.
  • If you have them, take care of your dentures with daily cleaning, correct storage and regular checks with your dentist.

Toothbrushing for people with dementia

Where possible, the usual toothbrushing routine should be followed, and you should continue to see your regular dentist for dental care. If toothbrushing becomes difficult, carers can assist with the toothbrushing process via the following steps, described by the Australian Dental Association:

  • Chaining - The carer begins brushing the teeth and the person with dementia completes it.
  • Bridging - The person with dementia holds a toothbrush while the carer brushes the teeth with a separate brush. This aims to improve the sensory connection.
  • Hand over hand - The carer's hand is placed over the person with dementia's hand to guide the brush to clean the teeth together.
  • Yawning - Yawn facing the person with dementia and hopefully this will stimulate a yawn in return so the person will open their mouth for their teeth to be brushed.

The Australian Dental Association also suggest:

For more information, visit:
More information on improving wellbeing

People with dementia can read these articles on our website:

Speech pathology after a dementia diagnosis

By Beth Causa, Speech Pathologist

Communication impacts almost every part of a person’s life, from having a conversation with a friend, to following a recipe, to understanding and filling out forms. A speech pathologist can help after a dementia diagnosis, to assess and support a person’s communication skills. It is important for people living with dementia and their carers to understand what a speech pathologist does, how a speech pathologist might help you, and why you should seek help early after your diagnosis.

What is a speech pathologist?

A speech pathologist has expertise in assessing and treating communication disorders that can be associated with different types of dementia such as:

  • language (e.g., word finding difficulties, comprehension difficulties),
  • pragmatics (e.g, knowing what to say, when to say it, how to say it),
  • cognitive-communication (e.g., remembering what was said in a conversation, staying focused when reading a story),
  • speech (e.g., slurring or mumbling),
  • voice (e.g., hoarse, soft, or monotone voice), and
  • fluency (stuttering).

A speech pathologist also has expertise in assessing and managing swallowing disorders.

Depending where you live, you might find your local speech pathologist working in a hospital, outpatient clinic, residential aged care facility, or private practice. You can find a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist in your area, via the Speech Pathology Australia website.

What’s involved in speech therapy?

Step 1: Your speech pathologist will get to know you, so they can deliver person-centred care. You should share your hobbies, interests, family, personality, and life history. This information will help your speech pathologist to tailor the service to you.

Step 2: Your speech pathologist will work with you to develop goals for the service. These will be very personal to you. Some examples:

  • To tell the hairdresser what haircut you want
  • To get more involved in group conversations
  • To read the newspaper and talk about current events
  • To get your ideas across more easily
  • To follow a baking recipe
  • To have better conversations with your spouse
  • To be prepared for future life and communication changes.

Goals like these are aimed at maximising your independence and your life participation.

Step 3: Your speech pathologist will work with you to achieve your goals. You could benefit from treatment, education, advice, and/or tools to support communication. It is up to you and your speech pathologist to decide how often you have appointments, for how long, and who is involved. (Funding might influence this too).

Why you should start speech pathology early

This all relates to the principles of neuroplasticity, in particular “use it or lose it”. Decades of research has proven the brain can change. A person can maintain or improve skills, through regular use. For anyone who learned to play piano as a child but didn’t continue as an adult, then discovered later in life that they were not very good at playing piano anymore, that’s “use it or lose it”! Relating this example to speech pathology after a dementia diagnosis, regular communication ‘practice’ means you will maintain your communication skills over time.

Your speech pathologist will help you to make the most of your strengths, and find ways to overcome communication barriers, to keep your communication skills strong.

Here are some examples of evidence-based treatment approaches to support communication in dementia:

Approach Examples
Cognitive rehabilitation Spaced retrieval training
Discourse intervention
Word retrieval therapy
Cognitive stimulation Reminiscence therapy
Montessori intervention
Compensatory strategies Memory aids
Life book
Photo diary
Education and support ‘MESSAGE’ communication partner training
Group and individual support sessions

 

How to get started with speech pathology

If you are noticing any communication changes, or if you just want to be proactive (remember, use it or lose it), you have three options:

  1. Talk to your GP about a referral to a speech pathologist, through the Medicare-subsidised Chronic Disease Management (CDM) Your GP might recommend a speech pathologist, or you can find one on the Speech Pathology Australia website.
  2. Talk to your aged care provider about a referral to a speech pathologist using your Home Care Package. Your case manager might recommend a speech pathologist, or you can find one yourself and request to see that therapist.
  3. Refer yourself directly to a speech pathologist. You can contact your closest public outpatient speech pathology department, or you can find a private speech pathologist on the Speech Pathology Australia website. If you are referring yourself directly, you shouldn’t need a doctor’s referral.
For more information on the Forward with Dementia website: For more information on external sites:

Forward with Dementia information

Read About Us or email forwardwithdementia@unsw.edu.au or leave a message on Tel: (02) 9065 7307. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (see links at the bottom of this email).

Forward with Dementia is part of the COGNISANCE project. The project was awarded by the European Union Joint Program on Neurodegenerative Disorders and in Australia is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

This project has been approved by the UNSW Human Research Ethics Committee. Project number HC210560 and HC 210308.

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Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA)
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