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Study to determine true costs of dementia care

For the first time Australia will have a robust economic evaluation of the cost of providing quality dementia care in residential aged care to inform policy making and service planning.

The research, funded by NHMRC Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre (CDPC), aims to develop innovative models that both meet the preferences of people with dementia and are cost effective.

Dr Claire Bradley, an epidemiologist and senior research fellow with CDPC, said the Investigating Services Provided in the Residential care Environment for Dementia in Australia (INSPIRED) study will capture the direct service costs of dementia, as well as broader system costs such as hospitalisation and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

“Ultimately, we would like to identify a model of residential care that both rates highly in the professed choices of people with dementia for their own care but also comes out as a cost effective way of providing that care as well,” said Dr Bradley told Australian Ageing Agenda.

A significant part of this study is to give people with dementia a voice about their own care preferences and choices. Dr Bradley said people with dementia had traditionally been excluded from participating in research and having their care preferences and quality of life known. She said:

“Very few studies actually look at or take into consideration the opinions and choices of people with dementia, so first and foremost we are trying to give people with dementia a voice about their own care.”

Residents with dementia, with the support of their families, will be surveyed on their quality of life and quality of care and their care preferences in an ideal care setting. From this the researchers will be able to rank service features according to their importance to people with dementia.

“By identifying gaps, we can look at better service configurations as far as providing better quality care and models that can be provided more cost effectively in the future,” said Dr Bradley.

More than 50 per cent of residents in Australia’s aged care facilities have dementia and this figure is projected to increase in the future.

The INSPIRED study, which is in its first year, has already been piloted in South Australia with industry partner Helping Hand and will now be undertaken with the remaining CDPC industry partners HammondCare in NSW and The Brightwater Care Group in WA.

The researchers will then recruit additional residential care organisations to the study in order to be able to present the fullest view of care service models currently operating in Australia and to extend the data collection on care preferences to their residents, said Dr Bradley.

Professor Maria Crotty, director of Rehabilitation at Repatriation General Hospital, and team leader of the INSPIRED study, said the study was rare because it did not exclude people on the basis of being cognitively impaired. “On the contrary, INSPIRED is designed to include these people,” she said.

Professor Crotty said the study’s results would help inform future policy and program decisions in relation to the models of care and funding for people with dementia in residential aged care.

The CDPC is a $25 million partnership between government, academics, industry partners and Alzheimer’s Australia.

For more information or to participate in the study contact:

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