Dementia isn’t a disease that afflicts only the elderly.
That’s what a group of Alzheimer's advocates, draped in teal, gathered to tell Bendigo residents yesterday.
As part of Dementia Awareness Month in September, the group paired with Bendigo Health to spread the word that dementia is not an inevitable part of getting older.
Program manager for rural client services with Alzheimer’s Australia Vicki Powell said there were myths that fostered fear and misunderstanding about dementia.
“Dementia is not a normal part of ageing,” Ms Powell said.
“People think as they get older they're going to get dementia, but that is not the case - not everyone will.”
However, she said the number of people in Greater Bendigo living with dementia was set to increase astronomically.
“Just in Greater Bendigo, there will be a 974 per cent increase in people with dementia [by 2050],” she said.
In the next 35 years, she said the region could expect to see around 18,000 people suffering the often debilitating condition, compared to 1700 at present.
Ms Powell said she had worked with many people living with the condition – in her current role and formerly as a nurse – and also had family members facing the diagnosis.
“It's hard for them. They get frustrated and upset when they can't remember things, they can't remember family names,” she said.
“And it's difficult for family members when their loved one doesn't remember who they are.”
Jo Middleton specialises in working with people who are diagnosed with dementia under the age of 65 – known as younger onset dementia.
Ms Middleton said it often takes longer to diagnose younger people with dementia, as health professionals are more likely to think they are suffering stress or depression.
She stressed social connection for younger onset dementia patients was vital, especially as they may have lost a job, friends or social interaction because of the condition.
She said it was also crucial to provide age-appropriate services for younger dementia patients.
Ms Powell said it was important for people to keep their brains and bodies active – doing the things they love to stave off dementia.
She said tactile and sensory objects – such as the cushion she is holding – can help bring back memories for people suffering dementia.
On Sunday, October 11 there will be a Memory Walk and Jog around Strathdale Park held in Bendigo for the first time to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Australia.