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  • Calls for timely and ongoing access to physiotherapy for people living with dementia

    Author: Charlotte Mitchell

In a joint statement Physiotherapy and Dementia, peak health bodies have united to draw attention to the critical importance of maintaining physical health, and its impact on improving mental health and wellbeing of people living with dementia.

Dementia Advocate Phil Hazell was diagnosed with younger onset dementia at 55 years old. Now 63 years of age, he has regularly visited a physiotherapist since his diagnosis to assist with the varying symptoms of dementia.

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“My balance and knee joint pain were two major factors affecting my ability to do basic things, like walking up and down stairs, which significantly affected my day-to-day life,” Mr Hazell said.

“One of my biggest motivators for seeing a physiotherapist was to help manage that pain and prevent another fall. I now feel more confident using stairs and I am better at judging distance one step to the next.

“I have also not fallen since last seeing the physiotherapist, so I encourage anyone living with dementia that needs help with pain management and mobility, to talk to your health care provider about physiotherapy.”

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The position statement explores the early intervention measures available through physiotherapy in assessing, treating and achieving positive outcomes.

APA National President Scott Willis said that in many cases access to physiotherapy is not offered in a timely manner to people living with dementia.

“Too often the physical health of people living with dementia is neglected, as the focus traditionally has tended to be on cognition,” Mr Willis said.

“Physiotherapy improves physical health and plays a significant role in improving mental health and mood.

“Physiotherapists can work individually or as part of a comprehensive, inter-disciplinary team to support the physical and cognitive needs of people living with dementia, including to help diagnose pain and other symptoms for those who with communication difficulties.”

Dementia Australia COO Anthony Boffa said dementia is the second leading cause of death of Australians with an estimated 487,500 Australians living with dementia in 2022.

“Maintaining your independence is something everyone deserves and improving access to physical rehabilitative services is critical for those living with dementia,” said Mr Boffa.

“Dementia Australia affirms the rights of people living with dementia to receive timely and ongoing access to physiotherapy services and the need for appropriate funding to support those services.”

Research has shown that physiotherapy can help improve the quality of life and independence of older Australians, including those living with dementia, by:
  • improving motor skills such as gait and balance
  • reducing frailty
  • reducing the number of falls and fractures
  • slowing cognitive decline
  • improving cognition, agitation, mood

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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.