The chair of Alzheimer’s Disease International Glenn Rees has called for respite care to be given much greater attention in government policy and said Australia should look to countries such as Japan for successful models.
Mr Rees told the Catholic Health Australia national conference on Monday that while the Australian Government’s investment in dementia research was a “big achievement”, more action was needed in areas such as access to flexible respite, timely diagnosis and involving consumers in quality measures.
He said the implementation of the 2012 aged care reforms had not measured up to its promise.
“Respite care in my view should receive a much higher priority in dementia care policy,” he told the Canberra audience.
“It is the most demanded service by Australian family carers of people with dementia and well-designed respite can socially engage the person with dementia.”
Mr Rees said that in Japan 4,000 community care facilities delivered access to flexible 24-hour respite care and were supplemented by dementia-specific day centres supporting people with dementia to restore capacity.
“This model supports users to remain in the community and avoid more expensive residential care,” he said.
Mr Rees also reiterated his call for putting cash in the hands of consumers as another approach to achieving flexibility and greater choice in respite care.
Progressing on quality indicators too slowly
On the topic of quality, he said that work on developing a set of quality indicators in residential and community care was progressing too slowly and had not been given priority in Australia.
Australia could learn from other countries such as the US, Scotland and Canada that were much further down the path of standards and indicators. For example in the US, advocates for residents in nursing homes visited facilities and monitored conditions as part of its long-term care ombudsman program, he said.
At a global level, there were also moves towards the development of internationally comparable indicators of quality dementia care through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the international consortium for health outcomes measurement.
“There seems to be a recognition across the world that the time has come for a fundamental shift from a compliance, minimum standards approach to one which focuses on improving quality and providing information to consumers about quality of care they receive,” he said.
Mr Rees’ speech coincides with the release of the World Alzheimer Report 2015, which estimates there are over 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide, implying one new case every 3.2 seconds.
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