Extension for dementia Parliamentary inquiry

The initial deadline for the parliamentary inquiry, Dementia: Early Diagnosis and Intervention, may have just passed but the HOR Standing Committee on Health and Ageing say it will still accept your submissions.

By Yasmin Noone

People with a passion for dementia-related issues still have time to put forward a submission to the Dementia: Early diagnosis and Intervention inquiry, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing has announced.

The initial deadline for inquiry submissions was yesterday, Wednesday 2 May. But Committee Chair and Member for Hindmarsh, Steve Georganas MP, said the group will make an exception this time around and continue to take submissions from interested parties well beyond this date if need be.

“There’s been a lot of activity in the last few weeks, with Minister [Butler] announcing policy on aged care for older Australians,” Mr Georganas said.

“I know a lot of people in the sector would have been consumed by the hundreds of pages-document [about reform] from the Minister’s office.

“So I’d encourage people to still submit.

“We want to hear from people involved in dementia care, doing research into dementia, people living with dementia and members of their family.

“You don’t have to be an expert in the area…We want to hear first-hand what people with dementia go through, what treatments are available for dementia, and about what research is being done.”

On 20 April, the federal government announced there will be increased support for primary health care providers to undertake more timely dementia diagnosis, and a stronger focus on people with younger onset dementia.

Mr Georganas said that, as part of this inquiry, the Department of Health and Ageing is also invited to submit specific details about its dementia-reform promise – either in person at a public hearing, via email or in hard copy.

“We know that, over the next 20 years, the number of people with dementia will more than double.

“Early diagnosis and intervention has been shown to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and their family, and carers.

“…Since this inquiry was announced, the minister has also guaranteed funding for dementia care and early intervention which is really good.

“We are very keen to hear from the [office] of the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing.

“We want to know how they are proposing to better the lives of people with dementia thought extra funding and research for people with dementia.”

The inquiry was requested by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, in late-March this year. The committee aims to release dates and venues of public inquiry hearings later this month, and release its inquiry report towards the end of 2012.  

“You will find that inquiries which have been referred to a committee by a minister usually get taken very seriously.

“So I’d encourage anyone and everyone with an interest in dementia, regardless of what their involvement [in the sector] is, to please, please put forward a submission to this inquiry with their thoughts and views.”

CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees, stressed the need for urgent action on dementia, not only for people living with the condition but for their family and carers.

“There are clear benefits to early diagnosis and good management of dementia,” Mr Rees said. “Yet in Australia we know that on average it takes more than three ears between first noticing symptoms of dementia and getting a firm diagnosis.

“A delay in diagnosis is not just an inconvenience. These traumatic years are spent searching for an answer or some way to understand what is wrong. Those who get a timely diagnosis and appropriate referrals still face a difficult journey but have significantly less stress and anxiety.

“As with other chronic conditions, recognition of the initial signs of dementia and timely diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve the experience of the individual with dementia and their family.

“Early diagnosis enables the person with dementia to make choices about their future, to plan their finances, their care arrangements and make legal decisions. It also enables families to organise counselling and support from community services.

“Perhaps most importantly it takes away the anxiety and uncertainty of not knowing what is wrong.”

However, Mr Rees said, he is currently encouraged by the wide-ranging government interest in dementia-related issues.

“Including this inquiry, [there’s] a stakeholder meeting in June to discuss primary care and dementia, the recent announcement of the Living Longer Living Better reforms which include action on primary care and dementia as well as hospital care, and the upcoming meeting of the state and territory health ministers in August in which there will be a proposal put forward to make dementia a national health priority.

“It is likely that the information which is obtained through this inquiry will provide important input to the direction of the reforms.

“…I am pleased that dementia is finally being recognised as a significant issue across health policy.  It is exciting that there are currently a number of initiatives underway which are looking at the issues.”

For more details on the inquiry or the process of lodging a submission, click here.

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