There are a range of neurodegenerative disorders that may accelerate patient’s placement in an RACF. These can include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and motor neuron disease. These conditions may affect cognitive function, muscle strength and balance, and not only require management of the disease process, but also management of the resulting disability.
The disability resulting from these conditions is likely to increase more rapidly than in the normal ageing process. While these conditions will often involve specialist care through a neurologist, geriatrician or rehabilitation specialist, primary healthcare should be proactive in monitoring general health, maintaining preventive health measures
(eg immunisation), monitoring medications for efficacy and adverse effects, and working with allied health professionals to maintain mobility and independence.
In 2009, an estimated 1.8% of Australians reported they had experienced a stroke, of which 69% were aged ≥65 years. There is a wide range of disabilities that can result from a stroke, including the following proportions:22
- Loss of sight – 12.1%
- Loss of hearing – 7.7%
- Speech difficulties – 25.2%
- Chronic recurring pain or discomfort – 18.7%
- Slow at learning or understanding – 26.0%
- Incomplete use of arms or fingers – 35.6%
- Difficulty gripping and holding things – 32.9%
- Incomplete use of feet or legs – 40.4%
- Restriction in physical activities or work – 54.2%
As such, people who have experienced a stroke have a wide range of disabilities requiring assessment and ongoing support. Much of this ongoing support is through allied health professionals; however, as with neurodegenerative disorders, primary healthcare plays a key role in maintaining health and quality of life.