Finding out a family member has dementia is scary enough, but figuring out what to do next is even more difficult.
That’s why Campbelltown-based leading dementia researcher Dr Genevieve Steiner has worked with other experts and health professionals to create a new model of dementia care for south-west Sydney.
Dr Steiner is one of the driving forces behind the planned South-Western Sydney Memory Clinic, which would bring together a host of dementia professionals, services, education and information in the one place.
The Western Sydney University researcher said the memory clinic team had worked closely with residents and local GPs to develop a new system of care that, when implemented, would ‘revolutionise’ the treatment and management of the debilitating condition.
“South-west Sydney doesn’t have a memory clinic at the moment, which means patients and carers don’t have cohesion and consistency with their diagnoses and ways of managing their symptoms and the provision of support,” Dr Steiner said.
“The new model proposes to bring all the services together at the clinic.
“People will receive a rapid diagnosis and immediate referrals to specialists.
“Currently, it is common for a definitive diagnosis of dementia to take up to five years in Australia, with numerous visits to GPs and specialists.
“People with dementia are often left to decline with unsupported home care and then transitioned into nursing homes.
“Our new model of care will work with GPs and the community to give patients access to a one-stop-shop at the first sign of cognitive impairment.”
Dr Steiner said the dementia care model would ensure local patients received consistent advice from all health professionals.
“The clinic will have two distinct pathways,” she said.
“One path will be for patients, their carers and their families, and the other path will be for health professionals.
“We’ll make sure all GPs and specialists have the same training and understanding of dementia.
“What we found from our local forums last year was how important it was to have GPs involved in the process.”
Dr Steiner said there was still no fixed date of when the South-Western Sydney Memory Clinic would be up and running – or where it would be located – but she was hopeful it would come to fruition in the next couple of years.
She said now was more important than ever to improve dementia care services in the region as the number of patients in Australia was expected to increase by 460 per cent by 2050.
“It is so important to upskill our health care workers,” Dr Steiner said.
“If we don’t do something now, [the rate of undiagnosed dementia] will only get worse.
“Early intervention is crucial and our innovative, cost-effective model of care is set to make a huge difference for people with dementia and their families.”
If you think yourself or a family member has dementia symptoms, see your local GP and visit dementia.org.au.