Dementia is a normal part of the ageing process. It is the gradual loss of brain functions.  

Dementia is when the structure of the brain physically changes. It is normal and usually starts when people are over 65 years old. One of the most common causes is the Alzheimers disease.

Learn about the symptoms, treatment and prevention of dementia below. It also explains how to live with someone with dementia and what support and services are available to the whānau.

It is manageable and support is available.

This resource has been developed with funding from the NZ Lotteries Commission and with support from the University of Auckland.

1. Understanding Dementia

Dementia is a process of the brain cells dying off and we don’t notice changes in behaviours and/or functions.  However, it is important to recognise the signs, such as forgetfulness. moodiness. unusual changes in routine/behaviours or notice that something is out of place or odd.

Whānau should seek help early and not deal with it on their own.  Identify a primary carer and develop a plan of care.

2. Accept and Grieve

It is okay to grieve for your loved one when diagnosed. Whānau need to be able to accept and grieve.  Understand that they are on a journey and as the disease progresses the person will begin to regress.

Seeking help is key and support will allow better quality of life for the whole whānau.

3. Take Charge

Whānau should be prepared to take charge and accept responsibility for their loved one.  There is an expectation that whānau member/s will be the carers.

 The person with dementia becomes reliant on whānau to care for them and find it hard to accept anyone else to look after them.  Often, they will only speak in te reo Māori and this often helps them maintain their wairua and wellbeing.

4. Whānau Supports

Get access to the right information through various organisations eg Alzheimers, GP, Carers and health providers. Understand what yours and your loved one’s rights are and make sure these are not signed away.  Ask questions and voice your opinion.

5. Understand the Disease

Three key questions for whānau:

How long is dementia? How long do we need to plan for.  What can we expect?  Need to learn the states and stages of dementia so that whānau are not surprised and are able to cope with changes. What do we do? Develop a plan and implement it and monitor changes.

6. No Shame, No Fear

Awareness is crucial and whānau need to be in a state of awareness 24/7.  Whānau with dementia walk in two worlds—the here and now and te ao wairua.

No shame—it is a disease, abnormal behaviour as part of the disease is not a reflection of the true character of the person.  Te reo Māori often becomes the language of preference.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The Tāwhai Whānau, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Awa—Marshall, Teria, Hine and Moko.

Our Lead Actress, Maria Clarke; Supporting Actress, Bena Shepherd; Production Manager, Dr Annemarie Gillies; Choreographer, Tania McLean; and Communications Director, Georgina Maxwell.

Our funders the NZ Lotteries Commission; Eleanor Moloney from University of Auckland; our Film Maker, Tim Worrall, Ngai Tuhoe; and our Cameraman, Aaron Smart.

Eligibility for Dementia Support

Find Out More