Aged care workforce key to reducing dementia costs: report

Alzheimer’s Australia has released a comprehensive economic impact report on the cost of dementia to the economy to support its calls for a national dementia strategy.

The report, prepared by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra for Alzheimer’s Australia, looked not only at the direct and indirect costs but future workforce requirements and the impact of aged care reforms.

The researchers found the cost of dementia in Australia in 2016 was $14.25b – up from $6.6b in 2002 – however, reducing the incidence of the disease by just five per cent would save $5.7b over the next decade.

The average cost of dementia in the community was estimated to be $45,393 per person in the first year, and over $10,000 more for a person living in residential aged care.

The cost for subsequent years of dementia is estimated to be $12,835 and $23,810 per person respectively.

By 2036 the cost of dementia is expected to rise to $16.7b, while the cost of hospitalisation and the cost of care are projected to rise to $8.8b and $6.2b.

As part of its long term ‘Fight Dementia’ campaign, Alzheimer’s Australia is calling for a whole of community approach and commitment by the Government to fund a National Dementia Strategy.

The strategy would include greater awareness and risk reduction, improve access to timely diagnosis and health care, and ensure access to high quality residential care and community services to help achieve savings of $5.7b by 2025.

“Building capacity to address dementia now will save billions in direct costs and lost productivity for years to come, as well as improving the quality of life of the millions of Australians who are in some way impacted by dementia,” the researchers said.

“The policy implications of the latest data highlights the urgent need for the government to implement a funded, holistic national plan to tackle dementia over the next decade and more, with a focus on providing appropriate services and supports including addressing the social isolation and stigma associated with dementia.”

“This plan must include a comprehensive approach to improving quality of care and supporting people in the community, as well as better care through our health and aged care systems.”

The researchers noted that ongoing changes to the aged care system have a significant impact on how consumers access and receive services and raised concern about the current capacity and capability to deliver appropriate care.

“Specialist services such as dementia specific advocacy, information and support are critical,” the report says.

“Evidence suggests that the complex needs of people with dementia cannot be supported through mainstream health and aged care services alone. There is a need to also fund dementia-specific specialist services that can provide the care, support and social engagement that people with dementia and their families need.”

“Targeted programs and services can lessen the burden and reduce dementia-related costs across the broader health and aged care sector. The core business of both residential and home-based aged care services increasingly includes providing care to people with dementia. The demand for carers will rise over the coming decades as the number of people with dementia in the population increases.”

“As the prevalence of dementia increases in the community, it is critical that all aged care services are well-equipped and motivated to provide safe, high quality care for people with dementia, as part of their core business.”

“The aged care sector workforce is a critical element in the provision of quality services, and this workforce must be available in the future in sufficient numbers, and at a high quality.

“To ensure quality care, management in aged care services must be committed to person-centred high quality care, and services must have adequate numbers of skilled, qualified staff.”

“The workforce must have the appropriate education and training, skills, and attributes to provide quality care for older people, including people with dementia, who frequently have complex care needs.

“Backed by the evidence provided in this report, Alzheimer’s Australia strongly urges the government to develop and implement a National Dementia Strategy to ensure a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to addressing dementia in Australia.”

View the full report here.


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