A UK study has found that in nearly 40% of cases, doctors aren’t aware that patients they are treating have dementia.

A study by the University College London found that medical staff are regularly treating patients without realising the patient has previously been diagnosed with dementia.

The researchers say elderly people who are living with dementia are being sent home with instructions about how to care for themselves, for example with instructions about medication, but the doctors are not aware the patient has dementia.

The problem has arisen because patients have not properly recorded the fact that they are living with dementia.

The presence of dementia was more likely to be missed if the patient was alone, or from an ethnic minority background, or had severe physical problems.

However, recognition of dementia had actually increased since the last time the study was conducted in 2008, probably reflecting society’s growing awareness of the condition.

In 2016, doctors recognised dementia in 63.3 per cent of patients who had already been diagnosed with dementia. In 2008, doctors observed dementia in less than half – only 48.7 per cent – of people with the condition.

Dementia in Australia

There are an estimated 425,000 people in Australia who are living with dementia, and it’s estimated that by 2056 more than 1 million people will have the condition in Australia.

Two-hundred-and-fifty people are joining the population with dementia every day, and it is the leading cause of death among women.

Common early signs of dementia

Dementia is a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not one disease; there are several types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Dementia with Lewy bodies. Different types of dementia can affect people differently, and everyone will experience symptoms in their own way.

Common early symptoms of dementia are:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Being confused about time or place
  • Personality change
  • Apathy, withdrawal
  • Finding it difficult to perform everyday tasks, such as getting confused over correct change when shopping
  • Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
These symptoms are often mild and may get worse only very gradually. It’s often termed “mild cognitive impairment” (MCI) as the symptoms are not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia.Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. If you are concerned about your memory or a loved ones then contact your GP sooner rather than later.

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