Alzheimer’s Australia says new World Health Organization agreement highlights need for an Australian dementia strategy.
There is “renewed urgency” for the Federal Government to establish a fully-funded national dementia strategy after the WHO’s adoption of a Global Plan of Action on Dementia, says Maree McCabe, CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia.
The agreement on Monday shows the international community is committed to improving outcomes for people living with dementia and reducing the prevalence of the disease, she said.
The plan sets out seven action areas with measurable targets in areas including awareness, risk reduction, treatment and support for carers.
While Australian federal and state governments have endorsed a National Framework for Action on Dementia 2015-2019, advocates argue a strategy is required to tackle the disease that is now the second leading cause of death in Australia.
Ms McCabe said the key features of a national strategy would include increasing awareness, timely diagnosis, care and support, end-of-life care and dementia research.
Strategy is ‘a matter for government’ say officials
But a new strategy looks unlikely after Department of Health officials on Tuesday said they were “aware of” Alzheimer’s Australia call for action and instead referred to existing government initiatives.
“There isn’t a national strategy of the kind referred to by Alzheimer’s Australia but there are a range of government programs both in aged care and in other parts of health designed to provide support for people living with dementia, there is also significant research funding available,” deputy secretary ageing and aged care,” Dr Margot McCarthy told a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday night.
“We’ve referred to the national dementia framework… Strategies are a matter for government,” she said.
Labor, which committed to a national dementia strategy during last year’s election, said the international agreement should “serve as a wake-up call” for the government that it must recognise dementia as a national health priority.
It also criticised the lack of new dementia funding in the recent federal Budget.
Elsewhere at the hearing department officials confirmed the specialist dementia care units are not yet operational.
When the government announced the new units in June last year experts hailed them as the “missing piece” in the dementia care system (read our story here).
On Tuesday night’s hearing the department officials said they were still working with a range of stakeholders including clinical experts, providers and Alzheimer’s Australia to develop the model for the units.
“Once we have the policy settings right we will move to use places out of a future ACAR to establish those specialist dementia care units,” said Catherine Rule, first assistant secretary, ageing and aged care services.
Dementia services performing
Responding to questions from Labor Senator Helen Polley on how the government’s dementia support programs were performing, Ms Rule said the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service has received referrals for 2,250 cases from 1 October to 31 December 2016.
The Severe Behaviour Response Teams had dealt with 497 cases from their inception on 2 November 2015 to 31 December 2016, she said.
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