I know my family well, and I know when things are not right, when someone is behaving differently. But once I notice it, what should I do? Who can help me, and what can I expect to happen to next?
Dr Mark Wenitong
So the doctor will do a full examination, usually take some blood tests, often get X-rays as well just to check out everything else and make sure it's not something else. They'll also do this questionnaire. We call it a KICA, but it's a mental-state examination, but it's made for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
And it's a much more simple version of the usual one. And that's because lots of our people don't speak English as a first language, particularly our older people, and have real problems interpreting that other kind of mental-state examination. So this one works pretty well. And you can always talk to health workers or the GP if you are not sure exactly what's going on.
One of the things that we do know for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is that the diagnosis is late, often, so we miss the early signs. And there may be a lot of reasons for that which we don't know yet. Some of them may be, though, cultural reasons.
And some may be social reasons, like if you have a big household of people, people come and go and there's lots of kids around all the time. The oldies may be sitting around. And you may not take as much notice of them or notice that they are kind of fading away or becoming disoriented and losing their memory because everybody else in the family does things for them.
So there might be issues with culture around people thinking back on their old cultural stuff. And you can hear your grandad talking in his language in the corner there, but you don't realise that's not him thinking about the old times, that's him going off a little bit, so he needs to be assessed. And there may be other reasons as well, but we don't know all of the reasons yet as to why people are diagnosed late in our communities.
We also think that sometimes families get worried that their old people will get taken off them and put in a nursing home. But it's really important to get in early. If you see any of those signs, get in early. Make sure there's nothing going on. If there is something going on, then you can take some steps that are really important.
One of those is getting things like advance directives. Or there are things like your old people, while they've still got some of their memory and some of their mind with them, being able to tell you what I want to do in the future around how they'd like to live or die and in what circumstances.
Also, things like power of attorney will. Often families just get stuck because by the time the dementia's diagnosed, that old person's not able to give that power of attorney. That means you can help them out with their banking, their finance, their medical bills, and everything else that you might need to do.
Last reviewed: January 2016