With women expected to live four years longer than men and also at greater risk of dementia as they age, International Women’s Day this week provides a good opportunity to turn a spotlight on prevention and supporting elder women’s health.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), dementia has remained as the leading cause of death for women, with it outranking ischaemic heart disease, so in light of this Brisbane Waters Private Hospital had a chat to expert Geriatrician Dr Peter Lipski for insights around how to support older women and guidance for carers with elder female relatives.
“Let me be clear, un-diagnosed Alzheimer’s dementia or delirium is not old age,” Dr Lipski said.
“It is critical to diagnose dementia early as this can play a big role in managing the progressive cognitive decline and allows for an early medical management plan.
“Carers can play an integral role in prevention by taking action around any noticeable decline in functionality or capability of their loved ones.
“If someone used to always go to the mail box to fetch their paper of a morning and suddenly is unable to do so, that is not old age, there is something else at play.
“Noticing small signs such as not coping at home, unexpected falls, sudden onset of confusion, or behavioural or personality challenges should be referred to a GP immediately.
“Early intervention can help to change and challenge negative health outcomes for older women.”
With increasing age, women are also more likely to experience multiple chronic conditions simultaneously and according to the ABS the health system, as a whole, is not particularly well organised to cope with the increasing complexity of older women’s health.
In the absence of any cure, or widely effective treatment of symptoms for dementia, it is important to focus on prevention strategies to reduce risk of falls and fractures and support general health and well-being according to Dr Lipski.
“No one is ever too old for treatment, one of the reasons that Geriatric Medicine is so successful is because there is attention to detail, getting the simple things right and a holistic overview of the whole patient, not such a specific organ approach,” Dr Lipski said.
“Many carers are often afraid to confront their elderly loved ones about their health, but it is important to take action when there is any change rather than waiting for a ‘crisis’ to occur.
“If a GP and Geriatrician can help at the early onset of any functional issues, it can change the long term outcome.”
Find out more about Brisbane Waters Private Hospital and the specialists who provide services at the Hospital via: https://brisbanewatersprivate.com.au/specialties
Access more around Dr Lipski's work on providing care for elderly Australians via his book"Your Elderly Parents Failing Health."