By Stephen Easton
Above: Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler at Hammond Care’s Southwood nursing home on Friday.
The Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, has announced increased funding to support dementia research and a new Department of Health and Ageing campaign to promote early detection and treatment of the debilitating illness.
Mr Butler announced the additional funding at the launch of the Know the Signs campaign, during a visit to HammondCare’s Southwood nursing home in the southern Sydney suburb of Hammondville on Friday.
Eight research grants worth a total of almost $4.9 million have been issued through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) as part of the Department of Health and Ageing’s Dementia Initiative. The grants are to fund projects looking into both treatment and early detection of dementia.
“The research effort now is well past $20 million a year through our universities and our medical research institutes, compared to a couple of million dollars ten years ago,” Mr Butler said.
“Of the three really exciting frontiers that I think the medical research sector has, dementia is one. The others are cancer and, curiously enough, malaria.”
“Obviously we are a long way from having anything that approaches a cure. But these are absolutely critical foundations to be able to do that work into the future and potentially get to that golden point where there might even be serious treatments and potentially, a cure.”
The Minister also opened the fourth round of the Dementia Community Support Grants program, which offers around 30 grants of $50,000 each to community groups trying to raise awareness of dementia and provide support to sufferers and their families. Applications will close on February 10 at 2pm.
“The dementia support grants that the Alzheimer’s Australia organisation largely auspices for us, are a wonderful initiative…for community groups to really innovate in the way in which they lift understanding and lift literacy around dementia, and provide support groups in local communities for people dealing with dementia and their families.”
“I encourage everyone to think about ways in which you can encourage community groups who are thinking about innovative solutions to that, to apply for those grants.”
Alzheimer’s Australia General Manager of Strategic Initiatives Jack Sach said the organisation applies for the grants itself and also assists smaller community groups with their applications.
“We work in close association with most groups that apply for the grants, to ensure they are meeting the needs of people with dementia, Mr Sach said. “The normal approach is to ask us for letters of support.”
Groups that have received the $50,000 include Melbourne’s Kage Physical Theatre for their production The Sundowner and the Southern Metropolitan Region Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre for their Carer’s Choir.
The Dementia Initiative also includes funding for a range of other programs including $31.5 million for the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and $24.5 million going to the National Dementia Support Program over three years.
Mr Butler said that outside of the Dementia Initiative, another 33 grants for dementia had been issued as part of this year’s NHMRC general research funding.
“There’s much more that we can do. I’m very committed and the government’s very committed to being a part of that,” he said. “Dementia has moved in the community mind from being an inevitable part of ageing that you just simply have to deal with, to being a mainstream health issue that is treated like any other mainstream health issue.”