Reduce your risk of developing dementia

by KinCare — 23 January 2018

There is growing evidence to suggest health and lifestyle factors like staying mentally active, eating a healthy diet and maintaining social connections can help protect against dementia, among other positive benefits.

Dementia can affect your memory, cognition and behaviour. Small changes to your daily activities can help reduce your risk of developing dementia or lessen the severity of any symptoms you may be experiencing. Our tips below are simple changes you can make to lead a happier, healthier day.

Challenge your brain

Keeping your brain active with new activities helps to build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them. It can also help your brain keep working when some brain cells are damaged or die. Increase your mental activity by:

  • Continuing to work in a mentally challenging role
  • Playing bingo, bridge, Sudoku or puzzles
  • Learning a new language, computer skills or completing a course
  • Keeping your brain active with online brain-training programs

KinCare’s Let Connect social technology programme can help you learn computer and internet skills, as well as help you get started with some fun brain activities.

Get social

Maintain your social connections for mental stimulation, emotional connection and physical activity. These can all reduce the risk of vascular disease and depression. Make an effort to socialise by:

  • Going on bus trips or outings with friends and family, planning travel and popping out regularly for coffee or lunch
  • Joining hobby groups, cooking classes or card-playing groups
  • Volunteering with community or charity groups

Our Social Support group can help you get out and about more.

Be active

Regular physical activity helps with blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which will also improve heart health, cholesterol and blood pressure. Start moving by:

  • Walking, going to the gym or doing gentle exercises at home
  • Taking up lawn bowls, golf, yoga or tai chi
  • Swimming or dancing

KinCare’s Keeping Mobile and Preventing Falls program can help you stay physically fit and active.

Eat well

A healthy diet lower in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables can improve brain function and promote other benefits for your body. Try to eat a variety of foods from different food groups to maintain a healthy balance. If you need some assistance with planning healthy meals, talk to your KinCare Customer Care Manager about our Food Services.

Reduce alcohol consumption and stop smoking

Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of cognitive impairment. Avoid more than two standard drinks per day. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and dementia. Giving up smoking has immediate health benefits.

Avoid head injuries

Moderate to severe head injury increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Take care when playing contact sports and always wear a helmet when cycling or riding a motorbike.

Control your risk of heart disease and diabetes

Untreated high blood pressure and cholesterol can lead to damage to blood vessels in the brain. This increases the risk of stroke, cognitive impairment and vascular dementia. Seek advice from your doctor about your healthy range. 

Prevention and careful management of diabetes, through early screening and lifestyle modification, may reduce the incidence of mild cognitive impairment and dementia. KinCare’s nurses can help you manage heart disease, diabetes and other medical conditions you may have.

Obesity is associated with a higher risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which can increase the risk of developing dementia.

Seeing signs of dementia?

KinCare’s trained medical experts can help you to identify symptoms of dementia in a loved one and support you to manage behaviours of concern to lessen the impact for you and the person in your care.

Signs of dementia

Dementia symptoms vary from person to person and change over time as the condition progresses. A common concern associated with dementia is the emergence of changed behaviours and mental health issues that may be distressing for those affected. These are commonly referred to as Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) or behaviours of concern.

If you care for a loved one or friend who you think may be developing dementia, look out for the signs below.

Behavioural symptoms: These can be unpredictable or may be consistently triggered by specific situations or settings. Examples include: apathy, wandering, extreme anxiety or agitation, swearing, shouting or calling out incessantly, shadowing or constantly following a caregiver, pacing relentlessly which can lead to weight loss, undressing in public, becoming confused when the sun sets and physical aggression (in a small number of people).

Psychological issues: These can present as personality or emotional changes. Examples include: depression, obsession, hallucinations, delusions such as believing a caregiver has stolen property or that a past family member is still alive, psychosis. Some people with BPSD are more likely to be retrained, be on anti-psychotic medication and have increased carer stress. Specialist care may be required to address these symptoms.

Identifying the cause or trigger of behaviours of concern

As a caregiver, the first step in managing behaviours of concern is to identify the cause, trigger or any patterns which may lead to the behaviour. In many cases, a biological or physical cause may be contributing. Consider options like: hunger, thirst or dehydration, fatigue, pain, infection (bladder or chest), constipation, medication side effects, taking too many medications, fear or depression.

Some causes can be managed by a doctor, such as frontal pathology, basal ganglia lesions, chemical changes, temporal lobe disturbances, locus coeruleus, genetics or a family history of psychiatric disorder.

Some instances of BPSD may be triggered by something in the environment, such as overcrowding, inconsistent routine, under stimulation or boredom, noise, physical restraint, provocation by others, shadows and lighting, clutter, temperature or misinterpreting the behaviour of others.

Managing dementia and behaviours of concern

As a caregiver, you can take steps to reduce the occurrence or impact of behaviours of concern that you identify. This may be as simple as making sure your loved with dementia is comfortable, well fed and well hydrated. Make sure you look for signs of pain, infection and fatigue and seek specialist care if needed.

Changes to the environment can also help to manage the situation. Consider reducing the noise or clutter within the home. Try introducing activities, routines and structure to the day and be considerate in the way you communicate and interact with the person with dementia.

KinCare can help you with more strategies and information if you require additional assistance on communication, social engagement and environment. Speak with your KinCare Customer Care Manager. They can help by connecting you with dementia services and supportive organisations such as Alzheimer’s Australia, Dementia Advisory Services and Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Services.

Call KinCare today on 1300 702 319.