Government stumps up cash for new Australian dementia care monitor

By Melissa Coade

Wednesday September 22, 2021

The roles come in response to a mental health workforce that is 'stretched, particularly during the pandemic', federal health minister Greg Hunt said
The roles come in response to a mental health workforce that is ‘stretched, particularly during the pandemic’, federal health minister Greg Hunt said. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

A new centre will be established to routinely monitor dementia care in Australia thanks to a $38.5 million injection of federal money.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) will receive $13 million to establish the new national monitoring centre, and another $25.5 million from the government’s $185 million Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care (DAAC) mission has been allocated to fund research.

Health minister Greg Hunt made the funding announcement on Monday to coincide with Dementia Australia week. He said the new monitor would help address ‘critical gaps’ to support the national policy on dementia and care services. 

“The research will improve the quality of life for Australians as they age, reduce stigma associated with dementia and enable better outcomes for older people,” Hunt said.

“We know that dementia is now the third leading cause of disease burden in Australia, and that as our population ages, the number of Australians with dementia is projected to more than double by 2058,” Hunt said.

The $25.5 million will also help to develop a roadmap and implementation plan to better support Australians living with dementia. 

This week the AIHW published a benchmark study — the 2021 Dementia in Australia report — that confirmed dementia was the second leading cause of death in Australia. For Australian women, dementia is the leading cause of death.

According to the report, there are up to 472,000 people living with dementia in Australia. More than half of the number of aged care residents in Australia are also affected by dementia.

Richard Colbeck, federal minister for senior Australians and aged care services, said that the theme of this year’s action week, ‘a little support makes a big difference’, was relevant to many. 

“Those living with dementia deserve our understanding, love and support. It’s about seeing the person behind the diagnosis – an individual with a life, passions and relationships,” Colbeck said.

“Many people with dementia can continue to live well for many years – but this remains a complex and often misunderstood condition.” 

He added that the findings of the AIHW report validated the priority of dementia care in the federal government’s reform plan for aged care, which included funding for extra in-home support carers.

“We know up to 337,200 Australians are providing care for a person with dementia, and that 1 in 3 of those carers feels worried or depressed due to that role,” Colbeck said.

“Our aged care reform package includes additional support for dementia carers through the National Dementia Support Program, more respite care places and better dementia-specific models of respite care.”

The health minister noted that the government’s $17.7 billion package to reform aged care focused on improving the quality of dementia care. 

“[This] includes a $229.4 investment in reforms specific to improving the quality of life and care for people living with dementia,” Hunt said.

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