Feb 23, 2023

More support needed as dementia now leading cause of disease burden in older Australians

23_02_23 dementia HC new

Dementia has overtaken coronary heart disease as the leading cause of disease burden among Australians aged 65 and over, with key dementia consumer groups highlighting the need for improved care and support for people impacted by the condition. 

According to the latest update from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) compendium report Dementia in Australia, dementia was responsible for almost 230,000 years of healthy life lost among people aged 65 and over in 2022, an increase of 61% since 2011.

Today’s report also includes information on the behaviours and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), which refers to a range of non-cognitive symptoms that are common among people living with dementia.

In 2022, 401,300 Australians were estimated to be living with dementia, an increase of 4% from the year prior. 

AIHW spokesperson, Melanie Dunford, said, “Dementia is an increasing cause of disease burden in Australia, largely due to our ageing population but also from declines in burden from other leading causes, such as coronary heart disease.” 

“While the deterioration of memory, language and cognition are hallmarks of dementia, the majority of people with dementia will also experience at least one type of BPSD as their dementia progresses.

“BPSD can have a significant impact on people with dementia, carers and family, and has been associated with early admission to residential care, increased hospitalisation, distress for carers and reduced functional ability for the person with dementia,” Ms Dunford added.

Delivering the Government funded Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS),Dementia Support Australia (DSA) highlights that the number of people diagnosed will continue to grow as the population ages. 

“The 401,300 people living with dementia in Australia in 2022 is expected to more than double to 849,3000 people by 2058, according to the AIHW,” said DSA Head of Dementia Professional Services, Marie Alford.

This rising incidence of dementia is also having an impact on carers, their families, the health system, and residential aged care homes, according to Ms Alford.

“With 2 in 3 people living with dementia being in the community, there were up to 354,200 unpaid carers last year, often working 60 or more hours a week. At some stage most of us will be affected by dementia, either ourselves or because of someone we love.”

Ms Alford explained “It’s important that we provide options for respite for these carers and provide them with necessary skills to continue to provide care at home through programs like DSA’s Staying at Home program.”

Dementia Australia also reinforces the need for more support and calls for an interconnected, dementia-informed healthcare system to ensure everyone impacted by dementia receives appropriate support and care throughout their experience of the disease.

“It’s imperative that we have an informed system where staff working across healthcare industries have education in dementia and that all health and aged care workers and Australians know to contact Dementia Australia for support and information,” Dementia Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO)  Maree McCabe AM said.

“With dementia having so many touch points across the healthcare system, we must ensure the different parts of the system talk to each other.”

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