Dementia support

“Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease… Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life.”
– Dementia Australia

Dementia is an umbrella term to cover a number of specific diseases. From the 100 different types of dementia, the most common are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.

Approximately 1,300 people develop dementia in Australia every week. According to Dementia Australia, there are around 425,000 Australians currently living with dementia, and almost 300,000 people involved in their care.

Download our guide to dementia support (615KB PDF) to learn more.

Symptoms of dementia

There is no standard dementia experience – everyone’s journey with dementia is different. The most common symptoms of dementia are:

  • Progressive and frequent memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Personality and behaviour change
  • Apathy and withdrawal
  • Loss of ability to perform everyday tasks
  • Changes in language function

The onset of these symptoms can vary from person to person. Some will start with memory loss, others with personality change, and some will undergo language changes where they cannot find the right words.

Supporting someone living with dementia

At Japara, we believe quality of life is strongly associated with choice. That’s why we look beyond the disease to get to know the individual and what makes them thrive.

Maintaining a sense of home, and the freedoms of home, is important for helping someone stay orientated and independent. As much as possible, we replicate the life a person enjoyed before the onset of dementia, nurturing feelings of comfort and familiarity with their surroundings.

There are some simple things you can do to help adjust and make life a little easier:

  • Promote personal choice and freedom wherever possible
  • Provide an environment that is easy to navigate
  • Focus on the abilities of the person – what they are good at, rather than what they cannot do anymore
  • Communicate in clear, simple terms and use props or visual cues to help convey your message
  • Go along with the person’s reality of the world and avoid directly conflicting their interpretations
  • Provide sensory experiences that stimulate and promote quality of life – taste, touch, smell, hearing and visual experiences

What to look for in an aged care home

We believe a home should be a home – not a clinical facility or a hospital. If a home is not ‘home-like’ then it will only detract from a person’s quality of life and make the dementia journey more difficult than it needs to be.

  • How much does it look, feel, smell and operate like a typical home? If you do not feel at home, it’s likely your loved one will feel the same as you.
  • Do the residents have a say in running the home? They should, if that’s important to them, because it is their home.
  • Is there plenty to do, such as activities or taking on responsibilities? Feeling useful, being productive and having something to do gives life meaning for everyone.
  • Is the home open and integrated with the community? A good home is one in which it is hard to tell if someone is a resident or a visitor. People with dementia should not feel like prisoners.
  • Does the home understand the unique requirements of dementia? Dementia is a changing condition, which means a home should have the facilities and staff with knowledge in place to adapt.

The Japara approach to dementia support

Life doesn’t stop when dementia starts. This simple philosophy sits at the heart of our approach to dementia care.

At Japara, we believe in focusing on ability rather than disability. We never forget that we’re caring for people, and everything about a person is important – from the emotional and spiritual through to their physical wellbeing.

Our Dementia Champions have professional knowledge, as well as an interest and passion for the highest level of dementia support. They are the go-to contact in providing support and advice to other staff members, and identifying opportunities to further improve the quality of life for residents living with dementia. Some of our residences also have specialist dementia spaces for continuation of care and behavioural support as an individual’s condition changes along with their needs.

As with every part of Japara, our understanding and our approach to caring for people with dementia is all about respect.