Registered nurse Virginia O’Bree witnesses the debilitating effects of dementia every day.
Working at Springwood Hospital for nine years, she says more and more people are presenting with dementia and its associated complications.
“They’re not able to stay in their homes, not able to look after themselves, they forget what they’ve eaten. It’s distressing for families who don’t understand what’s happening,” Mrs O’Bree said.
Mrs O’Bree said a wider recognition of the need for hospitalisation and to be assessed, was probably the leading factor in the increasing number of dementia cases.
According to Alzheimer’s Australia, there is estimated to be more than 413,000 Australians living with dementia. This number is projected to reach more than 1.1 million in 40 years. It is the second leading cause of death in Australia and there is no cure.
Each week, there are 1800 new cases of dementia in Australia; one person every six minutes.
Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65.
Mrs O’Bree took part in the Western Sydney Memory Walk and Jog organised by Alzheimer’s Australia NSW on March 12. Held at Tench Reserve in Penrith, Mrs O’Bree walked 7km with Theresa Wixon and Rose Kadi, also from Springwood Hospital. They raised almost $300.
Funds raised from the walk will be put towards counselling services for dementia sufferers and their families.
“It’s a bewildering thing to have a family member with dementia and not know what services to tap into,” Mrs O’Bree said.
When Mrs O’Bree was in her early 20s her grandmother Hilda Paterson, sadly died suffering dementia, and it’s stayed with Mrs O’Bree ever since.
“She was hospitalised with all things that go with dementia. She was a sharp-witted lady and it was hard to see her not in charge of her faculties,” Mrs O’Bree said.
“It’s made me more empathetic with patients.”
She says there’s lots we can do to keep our brains active and our bodies too.
“I’m thinking of starting Zumba,” Mrs O’Bree says with a laugh.
“Dancing keeps the mind and body alert.”