Act now or face dementia epidemic

A recent report has projected that by 2050 there will be a fourfold increase in the number of people living with dementia and a quarter of a million older Australians without a care place.

The government has been given yet another stark reminder of the need for aged care reform following the release of an Access Economics report which predicts that unless action is taken now, by 2050 more than a quarter of a million older Australians will be without a care place.

The report, Caring Places released by Alzheimer’s Australia, predicts a future dementia epidemic if current governments do not prepare for a dramatic increase in the number of people who will develop the disease, from the current estimate of 257,000 to 1 million in 2050.

CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees, explained that the growth in the prevalence of people living with dementia will be drive the rapid increase in demand for care places.

“The issue has not been addressed in the Health Care Reforms and no additional funding has been provided in the 2010 Federal Budget for the Dementia Initiative – Making Dementia a National Health Priority, despite estimates that the prevalence of dementia will increase fourfold to about 1 million people in the next 40 years,” Mr Rees said.

In the lead up to the election, Mr Rees has therefore called upon the major parties to pay greater attention to the predicted figures, commit to fundamental sector reform and provide a comprehensive response to the dementia epidemic in the 2011 budget.

“The projections in the report suggest that if we are to avoid this tragedy, the supply of community packages and residential places over the next 40 years would have to double the average annual increase in places over the last four years.”

Mr Rees said that both supply and funding needs to be increased in order to deliver the appropriate balance of community and residential care services.

“The other thing is to ensure, through the way programs are structured, that they give us the flexibility that is needed to respond to the needs of older people.

“You may need to plan for the future but should you be giving people an entitlement to aged care service depending on their need.

“If an entitlement to health services is good enough for the Australian population through Medicare, why is it that older people don’t have an entitlement to aged care in the same way? Some people would say that unless you have an entitlement approach, the choice will always be limited.”

Director of Access Economics, Lynne Pezzullo, said that despite all the talk about the nation’s ageing population, the government’s current aged care policies do not reflect the huge predicted growth in the prevalence of dementia or the increasing numbers of Australians living to the age of 85 and beyond.

“The government is not taking into account the fact that Australians are living longer,” Ms Pezzullo said.

“Instead the government bases the number of community aged care packages and residential care places on the number of Australians over the age of 70.

“Decisions are needed in the 2011 Budget to address the undersupply of community packages and residential care places if increased supply is to be in place by 2020 and before the numbers of people with dementia and the over 85s increase significantly.”

Tags: access, aged, alzheimers, australia, care, caring, economics, places-,

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