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Dementia care in crisis: report

Alzheimer’s Australia is calling for an additional $500 million in the upcoming budget for dementia care services and research.

Australia's aged care system is failing people with dementia.

That's the feedback from public consultations held by Alzheimer's Australia around the country to assess the quality of dementia care and to encourage sufferers and their carers to tell their stories.

A national report by the consumer advocacy group which was released by the government yesterday, said most find the aged care system complicated, inflexible and largely unable to meet their needs.

Families want to keep loved ones living with dementia at home for as long as possible but the system doesn't provide adequate support and assistance for them to do so, the report found. People also have problems with the process of diagnosis.

"My mum has been diagnosed for four years. But, there was something wrong 10 years before that," one carer said in the report.

There are also long waiting times and a lack of transparency in administration costs. Families said there is a link between the quality of care and workforce issues such as staffing levels, training and pay.

Alzheimer's Australia chief executive Glenn Rees said Australia needed a funding commitment of $500 million to fight the dementia epidemic. He said money is needed urgently to address barriers to timely diagnosis and to fund dementia behaviour advisory services and research.

“There is a dramatic contrast between the experiences of the people with dementia and family carers who benefitted from timely diagnosis and referral to services, and the overwhelming majority of those who were traumatised by poor diagnosis, lack of information and care services that had next to no understanding of dementia,” Rees said.

He said that aged care reform that fails to give priority to dementia will fail. There are 280,000 Australians with dementia, with the number set to reach 400,000 within 10 years.

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler said the report made for sober reading.

"I can't speculate on dollar amounts," he told ABC Television yesterday, in relation to funding. (But) I have a very good understanding of the priorities."

He said the government will be responding to the report as soon as possible.

The report, Consumer Engagement in the Aged Care Reform Process, can be downloaded from the Alzheimer’s Australia website. Visit: www.fightdementia.org.au


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