Doctor likens dementia to diabetes

DEMENTIA needs to be approached in the same way as diabetes, including changing the fatalistic attitudes of doctors who feel they can't do anything for patients, a Gold Coast psychiatrist said on Wednesday.

Professor Philip Morris appeared before a House of Representatives inquiry into early diagnosis and intervention on dementia.

According to the latest government data, nearly 175,000 Australians had dementia in 2003 - a figure expected to rise to 465,000 by 2031, partly due to Australia's ageing population.

While there was no cure for dementia, Prof Morris said the nation's approach to the disease should emulate the approach taken on diabetes to help more patients be able to live well.

But he said a crucial hurdle in changing the approach to dementia was to change doctors' negative attitude in treating the disease.

"I take the view that there is a lot we can do - in diabetes, certainly, there's a lot you can do," Prof Morris said.

"Now (doctors are) expected to know what are you going to do for the education of the (diabetes) patient, the rehabilitation for the individual, the potential for their vocational career.

"I think that's where we need to move to on dementia."

Prof Morris said some, but not all, doctors' attitudes to dementia also meant the medications that were available to help patients live with the disease may not be prescribed to all patients who could use the medicinal help.

He said another perception, that dementia and Alzheimer's disease was a part of ageing, was also hindering attitudes to the problems.

 

DEMENTIA

  • About 37,000 new cases every year
  • Of those, 23,000 are female and 14,000 are male
  • 81% of all dementia cases occur in those older than 75
  • 175,000 cases in 2003
  • Up to 465,000 cases by 2031

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

 

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