NSW state election 2011: Consumer groups have their say

Alzheimer’s Australia and COTA NSW both have detailed prescriptions for the major parties ahead of the upcoming NSW state election.

Above: The Hon John Watkins, CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW. (Image: Tracey Trompf)

By Stephen Easton

The NSW state election on 26 March is approaching and the NSW branches of two consumer advocacy groups, Council on the Ageing and Alzheimer’s Australia, have plenty of advice on how the major parties can improve the lives of older people and people with dementia.

In a statement released yesterday, Alzheimer’s Australia NSW urged both major parties to take action on an impending explosion in the number of people with dementia over the next few decades, and issued a comprehensive ten-point outline of their proposed strategy to do so.  

The ten points address five priorities the organisation has identified: an education campaign to raise awareness in the community; greater funding for services required by people with dementia, their families and carers; increased investment in dementia-specific training for medical and healthcare professionals; better assessment and diagnostic services, and more funding for research.

Dementia is Australia’s third most common cause of death, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures from March last year, and Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO, the Hon John Watkins, believes it will be number one within the next two decades.

“The money that goes into dementia research is only about a tenth of what goes into cardiovascular disease and a tenth of what goes into cancer research,” Mr Watkins said. “Given it’s the third biggest killer in this country, its time to give more money to dementia research.”

Mr Watkins called for a community-wide public health campaign like those promoting heart health and quitting smoking, because friends and family are best placed to recognise the onset of the deadly condition.

“There’s not enough knowledge in the community, and that leads to stigma, loneliness and heartache for people with cognitive impairment,” he said. “Education needs to be across the medical community as well; misdiagnosis can be a very poor outcome for people with dementia.

“We’re very strong in our belief that there should be education across the board, from children up.”

The proposed dementia strategy suggests training doctors to encourage people, at the time of diagnosis, to plan for their future before they lose the capacity to make their own decisions, as well as dementia-specific design guidelines for buildings and urban spaces to enhance social inclusion for people with the condition, most of whom live in the community.

COTA NSW released their election platform, Call for Positive Action on Ageing, at the end of last year, containing three policy principles and five areas of major concern to older Australians: financial security; housing and accommodation; equal status with foster carers for grandparents raising grandchildren; transport and mobility, and health services and in-home support.

As well as urging both parties to retain the NSW Government’s strategy to deal with the ageing population, Towards 2030: Planning for our changing population, COTA NSW also suggests creating a ‘Seniors Impact Statement’, to be applied to every government decision and the establishment of a new ‘Innovations Unit’ within the Office of Ageing.

COTA NSW CEO Ian Day said that ageing should never be far from the minds of policymakers across all government portfolios.

“The Innovations Unit is one of these things where we’re looking for ‘whole of government’ approaches—not just the just the quick ones like ‘lets go put a rebate in place’,” he said. “How can we change the way that older people interact? It requires planning across different government functions and departments.”

“I think if a Seniors Impact Statement is accepted in its purest form, then it puts a legal obligation on all the departments, in much the same way as Environmental Impact Statements do at the moment.”

Mr Day said that older people on fixed incomes are affected the most by increases to the cost of living, and that existing rebates and concessions for age pensioners should be advertised more widely. The COTA NSW election platform calls for a review of these subsidies and “more generous indexation in line with rising real costs”.

“Older people tend to pay their bills before they spend cash,” Mr Day added, “but then they have less cash to buy food or pay for the bus fare down to see their friend. When these bills go up significantly in price, the pensioner pays those bills and has no cash left—they actually end up not feeding themselves because they pay those bills.”

Tags: aged, aged-care, ageing, alzheimers, cota, dementia, nsw-election, seniors,

1 thought on “NSW state election 2011: Consumer groups have their say

  1. Why believe coalition economic plan works without revitalize agriculture and manufacture industries??
    Just listen how Barry O’Farrell convincing voters: “People are our asset. They are our greatest wealth and they should be given the opportunity to pursue their dreams?” On the issue of economic management, Mr O’Farrell was asked what he thought was the state’s greatest source of wealth, given NSW lacked a resources industry.
    Take a look below the link subject: “Time for Action” in “Healthy Active Life” program that convert Broken hill into a Healthy Las Vergas Broken Hill economy? Link with http://www.streetcorner.com.au/news/showPost.cfm?bid=20747&mycomm=ES
    … .
    When we look at what today’s shrinking industries, such of agriculture (34% of fruit and 19% of vegetables imported); manufacture (10.5% by 2005–6) destructed by John Howard’s coalition government.
    Masealake (Member of Inventor Association QLD)

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