A former NSW Deputy Premier is urging the federal government to include dementia in its health reform agenda.

The CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, John Watkins called on federal parliamentarians to commit to improved services, increased funding and better planning to deal with the dementia epidemic.

Alzheimer’s Australia predicts that the number of Australians will quadruple to 1.13 million by 2050.

“Making dementia a priority is absolutely essential if we are to stem the tide of this devastating illness, which is set to have an overwhelming impact on the health system, not to mention the enormous human costs,” said Mr Watkins.

“Reform of dementia services must go hand-in-hand with the Government’s health reform.”

Mr Watkins said the government needs to develop alternative funding mechanisms for aged care to prepare for the increase in the number of people with dementia.

He also stressed the need for a bigger dementia care workforce.

A report last year from Access Economics estimated that dementia would become the third greatest source of health and residential aged care spending within two decades. These costs alone will amount to about one per cent of GDP.

The same report predicted that spending on dementia is set to outstrip that of any other health condition by the 2060s.

“The dementia epidemic is upon us,” Mr Watkins said. “The time to invest serious dollars to tackle this illness is now. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”

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