THE number of people living with dementia in the Northern Rivers is expected to skyrocket in the coming decades, with a new report suggesting increases of more than 320% for the Lismore and Ballina LGAs.
The Living with Dementia in Regional NSW report from Alzheimer's Australia NSW says the problems associated with dementia are made more difficult because of travel issues, limited or no access to specialist services and limited choice for aged care and respite facilities.
Nurse practitioner Anne Moehead is a specialist in psychogeriatrics and dementia with the Local Health District and said there needs to be some serious planning done now to meet the demand for services in the future.
"When planning we need to look at specialist staff in that area. When I retire I hope we have made a commitment for more outreach services," she said.
Ms Moehead said one difficulty in regional areas is that it can take a long time to see a specialist to get a diagnosis because GPs don't like to give a diagnosis until they have ruled out everything else.
And the outreach service covers Grafton to Tweed so the number of patients they can see in a day depends on the distances involved.
"Dementia is not an inevitable part of growing old," Ms Moehead said.
"Research tells us what is good for the heart is good for brain, so keep active and keep the brain stimulated.
"It may not prevent dementia if there is a genetic predisposition, but it may stop it coming on earlier.
"With an early diagnosis, we can put in play a healthy lifestyle and also use memory drugs that help prevent the rapid decline that happens as a result of the illness, which gives people chance to put their affairs in place and tell their families their wishes."
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