Learning to cope

Hollywood Private Hospital dementia care nurse Nicolette Mostert Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d408178
Hollywood Private Hospital dementia care nurse Nicolette Mostert Picture: Marcus Whisson www.communitypix.com.au d408178

Alzheimer’s Australia estimated there were 2212 people with dementia in the western suburbs with that number expected to increase by about 50 per cent by 2030.

Hollywood Private Hospital dementia ‘champion’ Ms Mostert said her job varied from helping guide a family through diagnosis to playing memory card games with the patient.

‘There are two clear stages of loss and grieving with dementia, the first when a loved one is diagnosed and second when they pass away,’ she said.

‘It is quite a confronting diagnosis and encompasses a whole range of unpredictable symptoms. ‘Whether it is reduced memory or motor function, we cannot focus on what has been lost. Previously the mindset has been: ‘They’ve got dementia, this is the end of the line,’ but I say: ‘No, let’s focus on making the most of what they have left.’

Although the condition affects three in 10 Australians aged 85 and older, an estimated 24,400 people are living with dementia under the age of 65.

Ms Mostert said she had recently noticed a worrying trend of younger patients in their 40s and 50s.

‘A few years ago, early onset dementia was considered quite unusual, almost unheard of,’ she said.

‘It has a lot to do with lifestyle choices such as drugs and alcohol abuse as I would rarely see a fit, healthy person with dementia.’

Ms Mostert said one of the most powerful assertions to overcome the label and stigma of dementia was to remember that there was life after diagnosis.

‘American psychologist Cameron Camp is doing incredible research using the Montessori technique to educate patients of ways to overcome day-to-day challenges,’ she said.

‘Hopefully in the future we will see more of this innovative research and hospitals introducing dementia-specific nurses like myself.’