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Dementia describes a group of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. Dementia affects peoples thinking, their behaviour and their ability to perform everyday tasks.

Last year there was were 1,089 people living with dementia in East Gippsland.  This figure is expected to rise to over 4,000 by 2050 representing an annual growth of 4.1%.

In 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) created a Dementia Plan for Gippsland.  Two important roles were created from the 2014 plan, including a specialised nursing position to support general practitioners with early dementia diagnosis. 

“Dementia can present in many different ways making it difficult to diagnose,” said Amanda Crombie, dementia nurse practitioner candidate based at Gippsland Lakes Complete Health.  “Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, however as we age and particularly after the age of 75, the chances of developing dementia certainly increases.  There are younger people, sometimes in their 30’s and 40’s who can be impacted by dementia and these situations can be particularly difficult to diagnose.” 

“My role offers help to East Gippsland GP’s and their patients including people at home when required,” Ms Crombie added.

Amanda stresses that not everybody who is experiencing thinking, memory or behavioural changes receive a dementia diagnosis.  “Some treatable medical conditions share similar symptoms and it is important to investigate. I can help people and their GP’s take steps to find out what may be causing these changes.”

A dementia access and support worker position was also created to address the impacts dementia has on a person and their loved ones.  Jenny Robinson was appointed to this position and provides people living with dementia, their families and carers with the knowledge and support to access the services they need.  Based at Latrobe Community Health Services in Bairnsdale, Jenny says, “At different points in time, people living with dementia may require help to access support so they can continue to live well in their own homes. Everyone wants to be able to live in their home as long as is safely possible and I like helping make that happen.”

Both Amanda and Jenny work in partnership with Diane Scott, a counsellor at Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria.  For ten years now, Diane has provided counselling and support throughout Gippsland to people living with dementia, their carers, family and friends.  “To have Amanda and Jenny in their roles is a bonus for the people in this region,” said Ms Scott.  They have improved a collaborative approach to supporting and enabling people to access diagnostic services and access ongoing supports alongside many other support services in this region.”

To remain responsive to the changing needs of Gippslanders living with dementia, their families and carers, the DHHS recently updated their 2014 Dementia Plan for Gippsland in consultation with representatives from a number of local health and aged related services and organisations.