Dementia is the chronic disease of the 21st century.
Dementia is the chronic disease of the 21st century. Patrick Gorbunovs

Dementia must be priority now and into future

ONE IN three Australians will develop dementia, The Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety has heard.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe highlighted the impact of the disease in Australia - on Australians - and reinforced that dementia must be core business for aged care.

"Dementia is the chronic disease of the 21st century," Ms McCabe said. "It needs to be a priority for the health and aged care industries, a Federal Election priority and an ongoing budget priority.

"With more than 438,000 people currently living with dementia, which is projected to increase to almost 1.1 million people by 2058, we will all know somebody impacted by dementia.

"One in three of us in this room will develop dementia at some point and we need to know how best to support the people who receive a diagnosis as well as the families and carers around them."

Ms McCabe said more than half of those living in residential aged care had a diagnosis of dementia and tended to have much higher care needs than residents without dementia, while about 70 per cent of people with dementia live in the community.

"Dementia is the second leading cause of death of Australians and already the leading cause of death of women in Australia and yet we know there is a lack of understanding and awareness generally that hinders people accessing services and support," she said.

"The future has arrived. It is up to us to maximise this Royal Commission as a once in a generation opportunity to transform the industry to make a profound and lasting difference to the lives of all people impacted by dementia."

Ms McCabe also highlighted the need for a minimum level of dementia-specific training to become a national prerequisite to work in aged care.

"The staffing resources in terms of numbers and skills mix needs to be sufficient to meet the complex care needs of people living with dementia," she said.

"Governments, providers, health professionals and consumers must work together to develop agreed and clearly articulated dementia quality care standards, enshrined in regulation, to ensure that dementia is core business in the aged care industry."

Ms McCabe said aged care was complex and the Royal Commission was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the industry to make a profound and lasting difference to the lives of all people impacted by dementia.


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