The number of Kiwis with dementia is set to nearly triple by 2050, but if we all practise brain health we could curb the trend, says Dementia NZ chief executive.

The number of people with dementia in Aotearoa is skyrocketing says the Dementia NZ chief executive, but taking care of our brains before we reach our 40s can prevent, minimise or delay dementia onset.
Dementia NZ chief executive Scott Arrol was in Nelson to tour a new Memory Care Centre at Summerset Richmond Ranges Retirement Village and said despite focused dementia facilities opening around the country, there wasnt enough to deal with the growing number of Kiwis with dementia, and well probably never be able … to have enough.
Dementia is the umbrella term for a decline in mental functions, including Alzheimers, affecting 70,000 people in Aotearoa, but Arrol said that number would nearly triple by 2050, seeing 170,000 Kiwis impacted by the disorder.
He said the key to curbing the increasing number was to focus on brain health before hitting middle age.
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Dementia NZ is putting a focus on brain health which is recognised to be as important, if not more important than heart health.
We can do things when were younger to prevent, minimise or delay the onset of dementia.
Around 30, we should be thinking about our brain health.
Lifestyle factors including exercise, diet, mental stimulation, socialisation and alcohol consumption, he said had an impact on brain health.
Theres some things youre doing now, that you may well regret in 20 or 30 years time.
While the ageing population was a factor for an increase in dementia, Arrol said often diagnosis was happening too late at GP level.
Dementia New Zealand chief executive Scott Arrol at the new Memory Care Centre at the Summerset Richmond Ranges retirement village.
Someone might present with cognitive impairment but a dementia diagnosis might not happen until its very clear that its dementia, then at that point it can be getting too late, he said.
Its been shown that if you can diagnose sooner, then if you were to wrap around a level of care in their own home … you can stretch out that period of decline. And you could stretch it out, best case, another 15 years.
Summerset Care Centre manager Vanessa Kingsbury said warning signs of dementia varied depending on the type of dementia and the person, but some symptoms included forgetting to eat or leaving the stove on.
Betty George, left, Memory Care lead and Vanessa Kingsbury, Care Centre manager, at the new Memory Care Centre at the Summerset Richmond Ranges retirement village in Richmond.
Memory Care leader Betty George said often peoples personalities were affected.
They get more anxious or depressed, their behaviour changes.
In recent years, care for people with dementia had improved, benefiting the patient as well as friends, whanau and carers, Arrol said.
It used to be that people with dementia were locked away and restrained, he said.
There was no real thought about [the fact] theyre still people. Just because youve got a cognitive impairment doesnt mean youre not a person.
Summersets new Memory Care Centre has 20 apartments, allowing residents to live independently under one roof with common rooms, lounges and gardens.
Purpose-built based on international research, and with input from Dementia NZ and Alzheimers NZ, the design is circular for residents to orientate themselves easily and includes colourful murals, dementia-friendly signs and colour-coded furniture including toilet seats and door frames.
Arrol said centres like Summersets were person centred, thinking about the residents dignity and providing cognitive stimulation to ensure a quality of life.
If you keep the mind active, you can live a better life for longer.