$70m announced for network of Specialist Dementia Care Units

The Government has announced it will invest $70 million on a national network of specialist dementia care units, with the first prototype service to be operational by mid year.

The innovative, world-first program will see 35 specialist care units established to provide best practice person-centred care for people exhibiting very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

This will provide much needed specialist care for people who are currently unable to be appropriately cared for by mainstream residential aged care services.


The program has been developed through extensive consultation with dementia experts, clinicians, state and territory governments, dementia peak groups and carers of people living with dementia.

The Specialist Dementia Care Program will include:

  • a commitment to establish at least one specialist care unit in each Primary Health Network, generally comprising nine beds, located within existing residential aged care facilities;
  • a nationally-consistent needs-based assessment framework to ensure care is delivered to those most in need;
  • person-centred and multidisciplinary care delivered in accordance with 10 Specialist Dementia Care Program service delivery principles;
  • formalised arrangements for regular specialist clinical input and review;
  • transitional support that focuses on reducing or stabilising symptoms, with the aim of enabling the person to move to a less intensive care setting; and
  • regular reporting on client outcomes, independent evaluation and a focus on identifying and sharing best practice in specialist dementia care.

The Specialist Dementia Care Program will be rolled out using a phased approach, starting with an early prototype service being developed at Brightwater aged care facility in Perth which is expected to be operational by mid-2019.

There will be one unit in each of the 31 PHNs with the additional four units to be determined according to need.

The following numbers refer to the number of PHNS in each state, and therefore how many units there will be in each state:

10 units in           New South Wales

6 units in              Victoria

7 units in              Queensland

2 units in              South Australia

3 units in              Western Australia

1 unit in                Tasmania

1 unit in                Northern Territory

1 unit in                Australian Capital Territory

The program will be implemented using a phased approach with the first 15 units planned to be operational by early 2020. The remaining 20 sites are planned to be operational by 2023.

The Department of Health is consulting with states and territories to determine where the first 14 units will be allocated in phase 1 after the unit at Brightwater is complete – and then where the last 20 will be allocated in phase 2. There are strong indications of support from all states and territories.

A tender process in early 2019 will select up to 15 units to be operational by early 2020, subject to evaluation outcomes, the remaining sites will be selected in 2021.

The Specialist Dementia Care Program will operate as the ‘third level’ of Australian Government programs to assist people with dementia, complementing the existing Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and Severe Behaviour Response Teams.

This $70 million annual investment by full rollout will be in addition to the more than $50 million the Australian Government also provides each year for a number of dementia specific programs to support quality of life and care for people living with dementia.

It’s also on top of the $200 million over five years for the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative, of which $15 million is earmarked for Implementing Dementia Risk Reduction and Prevention Research Priority projects.

A further $3 million is also available to boost Australian dementia data and track prevalence and progress.

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