Benefits of a diagnosis
Many people living with dementia wished they had received their diagnosis earlier.
A recent UK survey found over 90% of people living with dementia saw clear benefits to getting a diagnosis.
Many people living with dementia wished they had received their diagnosis earlier but put off getting an assessment because of denial or confusing dementia with old age.
Dr Dimity Pond describes some of the benefits of getting a diagnosis on this short video by Dementia Australia:
It’s better to know
Knowing the diagnosis can bring a sense of relief: “We now know why the changes are happening.”
Get dementia medications
A dementia diagnosis is needed to receive prescription medications for dementia. Depending on the type of dementia, a specialist doctor may prescribe one of four medications currently approved for the treatment of dementia in Australia (for more information visit Forward with Dementia).
Get rehabilitation and other therapies
A dementia diagnosis means you can access rehabilitative treatments such as brain training, cognitive rehabilitation and cognitive stimulation which can help people to manage memory and thinking difficulties (for more information visit Forward with Dementia).
Get subsidised healthcare and services to help manage at home
People diagnosed with dementia can access subsidised healthcare and support services including:
- Chronic disease management plan
A chronic disease management plan is a holistic plan taking account all chronic health conditions, including dementia. The plan sets out the different health professionals who might be involved in treatment and care. As part of the plan you meet every three months with the practice nurse (for about 40 minutes) and the GP (for about 20 minutes) every three months for ongoing advice. You can get five subsidised visits to allied health practitioners such as podiatry or occupational therapy every year under the plan.
- Mental health plan
It is common for people with dementia to experience depression or anxiety. If the person living with dementia experiences mental ill health ask their GP for a Mental Health Plan which provides 20 subsidised treatment sessions with a psychologist, counsellor or social worker every year.
- Supports for Activities of Daily Living
A diagnosis of dementia can help people to get services to assist with everyday activities. This can include things like help at home with cleaning, meals and showering, social supports such as activity groups, and home modifications and equipment such as safety rails or shower chairs.
Get emotional and psychological support
Get post-diagnostic support
A dementia diagnosis opens the door to education and support programs including:
- Dementia Australia’s Living with Dementia program
There is also the Dementia Support Australia’s Staying at Home program.
Know the type of dementia
There are many different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the most common. Other types include Fronto-temporal dementia, Lewy Body Dementia and Mixed dementia. There are different symptoms, treatments and management strategies for each dementia type. Knowing the type of dementia means it can be better managed and treated.
Improve your lifestyle to slow progression
Getting a diagnosis can motivate people to take steps to live well with dementia. The Forward with Dementia website provides information about lifestyle changes and other strategies that may slow the progress of dementia.
A diagnosis often changes how people make plans and decisions about their lives. Many people focus more on doing things that are important to them, such as spending time with people they love, or travelling. After diagnosis is a good time to make legal and medical decisions for the future such as setting up power of attorney and enduring guardianship documents.
Get support at work
People diagnosed with dementia while they are still working are protected via anti-discrimination legislation. Employers are legally obligated to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to allow a person with a disability to do their work (cognitive impairment associated with dementia falls under national disability legislation). For more information, visit Dementia Australia.
Get benefits from a diagnosis at every stage of dementia
People may be diagnosed with dementia at different stages – early (mild), middle (moderate) or late (advanced).
Getting a diagnosis during the early stages means you will have more time to understand and adjust to the condition, as well as make positive lifestyle changes that can improve your quality of life or that of your loved one. Medications and therapies are often most helpful for people in the mild to moderate stages.
A diagnosis in the moderate stages provides additional justification for government subsidised services including home modifications, mobility aids and care and support at home. It can also include overnight care and help with eating and personal care. These supports can be accessed through MyAgedCare (over 65 years) or NDIS (under 65 years). If changed behaviour impacts people living with dementia, support is also available via Dementia Support Australia.
A diagnosis is important in the later stages, even if the person is already receiving home care or living in residential care. A dementia diagnosis can provide access to extra government financial subsidies for people with dementia. Families can use the diagnosis to advocate for the right care and support for the person living with dementia.
In this article, you’ve learned some ways to monitor for changes that might indicate dementia. Try next: