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$70 million in funding announced for specialist dementia units

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged care Ken Wyatt has announced $70 million a year towards the treatment of people with severe dementia.

A “world first” national network of specialist care units has been introduced, aiming to provide person centred care for people who are unable to get the attention they need in other services.

The new scheme aims to establish one specialist unit in each primary health network, consisting of nine beds located within existing residential aged care facilities, focusing on relieving the severe symptoms with a view to moving the patient to less intensive care settings.

The program has been developed through extensive consultation with state and territory governments as well as dementia experts and peak bodies.

Dementia Australia welcomed the plan, with chief executive Maree McCabe commenting that “people impacted by dementia have long raised concerns with Dementia Australia about the inconsistent support for people exhibiting behaviours that may be a risk to themselves or others”.

“They have questioned the ability of mainstream aged care services to appropriately manage the specialist and unique needs of people living with dementia more broadly and especially those with exceptional needs.

“Some people with very severe behaviours may require specialised supports which is why this program represents an integral element of the broader aged care system,” she said.

Meanwhile, COTA Australia’s chief executive Ian Yates said the scheme was a welcome addition in the fight against dementia.

“Our country’s scientific and medical researchers are busy working to find a cure to this truly awful disease, with the government having previously allocated $200 million over five years for the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative,” he said.

“However, in the meantime, it is absolutely essential that people living with dementia and their families are provided access to quality dementia care, including tailored, specialist care for those residents who need additional support, so they have the highest quality of life possible.”

The Liberal Government is on a roll of aged care specific announcements and initiatives, with an election and Royal Commission to come in a busy 2019. This $70 million investment is on top of the $200 million set aside for the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative, of which $15 million is earmarked for Implementing Dementia Risk Reduction and Prevention Research Priority projects.

The rollout of the scheme will start with a prototype in mid-2019, with fifteen units operational by 2020 and the remaining fifteen-plus units the following year.

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