The high cost of dementia

The economic impacts of dementia on the Australian economy can no longer be ignored.

The high cost of dementia

Advances in vaccinations and medicines during the last century have seen the average lifespan of an Australian increase by nearly 30 years. Hand-in-hand with our increased longevity is a rise in the number of Australians diagnosed with dementia.

Currently three in 10 Australians aged over 85 and one in 10 aged over 65 are living with dementia. This accounts for about 330,000 Australians with this number expected to rise to one million by 2050. Globally, 135 million people will be living with dementia in 2050 and the worldwide cost will be one per cent of global economic output.

Chairman of the World Dementia Council, Dr Dennis Gillings, is currently visiting Australia to meet with ministers, officials and researchers in an attempt to reduce the barriers to investment in research so that a cure or disease-modifying therapy can be found by 2025.

Dr Gillings said that the economic impact of dementia in Australia was “increasing relentlessly” and that the cost, which is already $5 billion annually, is expected to grow by five per cent a year.

Dr Gillings said that if the onset of dementia could be delayed by five years, the growth in costs could be contained to an affordable level.

Read more from The Department of Health
Read more from the National Health and Medical Research Council
Read more from The Age

Opinion: Dementia research essential

Dementia is a disease which is not only crippling to the victims and their loved ones, but also to the Australian economy. With one in 10 Australians aged over 65 now being affected by dementia, this is a disease we can no longer ignore.

Dementia, like most diseases, isn’t kind to the victim or their family. I watched first hand as my grandfather, in his late 80s, had his dignity taken from him as his mind slowly faded away. It’s not how you want to remember a person and it’s certainly not how they would want to end such a wonderful life.

There have been great leaps forward in research surrounding dementia and understanding how and why it affects its victims, but developing drugs for dementia is seen as a high risk and low reward return for pharmaceutical companies, so research into finding a cure doesn’t receive as much funding as it deserves.

Australia is leading the way in providing funding for dementia research with $200 million committed by the current Federal Government signalling to other economic powers that dementia research is a cause worth funding, for the economic future of our nations, and improved later lives for our citizens

Has someone you know been affected by dementia? Do you think more should be done to fast-track dementia research? Would you donate to dementia research if you knew how?





    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    tisme
    4th Dec 2014
    10:13am
    the cost isnt really accurate wen u come to realise that a lot of those who care for family members with dementia are paid $1.50 an hour.
    niemakawa
    4th Dec 2014
    11:02pm
    They should do it for nothing. Their family their responsibility.
    Pass the Ductape
    4th Dec 2014
    10:24am
    Yes we need to fund research into this thing. I've known acquaintances who have suffered from various degrees of dementia and the ones I really feel sorry for are those family members who are left to cope with those that have it.

    Strangely though - from my limited experience with people who have had dementia - and maybe I'm climbing up the wrong tree - but has anyone noticed as I have, that those poor souls who do get it seem to be those with an apparent better than average IQ, or at least have shown a quickness of mind in many respects. Don't know if my explanation will suit, and if my theory is correct, then I should have no problems with dementia myself! ;0
    Mar
    4th Dec 2014
    12:01pm
    I worked voluntarily in the Alzheimer's section of a nursing home for some time and I learned that dementia of whatever kind (and there are many) can effect anyone regardless of IQ or education. It is devastating for the person and their family. Loved ones can visit everyday and they do not remember and sometimes not know who they are. I do know that the best thing for all of us as we age is to keep our brain active. Computers are good, crosswords, choirs, learning a language, so many things can help. I don't know enough about diet,mbut some say it helps. the cost to the family is the greatest cost of all, but certainly it is becoming a huge drain on community costs and resources. I think research is improving.
    Eclair
    4th Dec 2014
    9:16pm
    You are so right. Keeping mentally, physically and socially active is the way to ward off the worst evils of aging. Alzheimer's Australia also recommends looking after your heart and healthy eating. For the first 3 I would recommend joining your local U3A. They provide really affordable courses and interest groups for over 50s. As the population ages, if we don't look after ourselves, there won't be enough left in the health budget to look after the thousands who will soon have this terrible plague. In fact, not curing but, caring for those with dementia is going to suck up most of future health budgets and there will be nothing left for other worthy causes.
    Mar
    4th Dec 2014
    12:11pm
    I do think we need far more fundraising and awareness (such as for breast cancer). Probably it has not attracted the funding and research because it affects the older population, although younger people are now being affected (I know of two, late fifties and mid sixty). This might ring warning bells and attract more funding.
    wally
    4th Dec 2014
    12:46pm
    Hi Mar. I will spring a surprise on you and agree with you (for once) on this one. I also agree that more funding be devoted to research into Alzheimer's its causes and the best way to prevent its onset. We should make our politicians of all persuasions aware of our feelings in this matter. This is the old "squeaking wheel getting the grease" thing as this is a problem so easily overlooked. All too often we read/see in the news where famous celebrities and public figures are suffering from dementia, say something sympathetic to ourselves and then go on to the next thing. This reflects a feeing of helplessness and a "what can I do?" attitude that I think we can all help turnaround into more positive action.
    KSS
    4th Dec 2014
    1:12pm
    Whilst I don't necessarily disagree on the funding issue, this is just the next worthy cause isn't it? We don't have a bottomless pit of money so who is to make the decisions about which condition gets how much funding? Does dementia out-weigh children's cancer? Does heart disease outrank PTSD mental health of veterans? All are worthy causes and who is to say which is the more needy/worthy?

    Of course for the individual the most worthy/needy cause is the one that affects them or their family. But is your family need more deserving than mine or Mar's, or Particolour or even Mick's? I don't want to have make that choice. Do you?
    Kato
    4th Dec 2014
    4:57pm
    KSS - If you get dementia you wont have to? All the conditions you state are funded to a degree by Government's State and Federally' The amount of volunteer hours put into all those services and more is immeasurable.
    Blossom
    4th Dec 2014
    7:57pm
    There has been people in their..... 40s..... who have developed dementia of one type or another, who have gradually lost their ability to hold a job and keep their career ambitions because they could no longer communicate enough to do.
    Bes
    4th Dec 2014
    12:14pm
    Research in itself raises a question.
    All the 'research' charities are run as tax free companies with CEO's and millions of dollars worth of prizes etc.
    Would be nice to know how much gets to wherever the research is done?
    I worked in a dementia unit and also as a patient transport driver. My father got Alzheimer's and the saddest time in my life is when I had to have his drivers license taken away. The man who taught me to drive cars and trucks.
    We never hear much about ongoing results just that research is ongoing and more funding is required?
    The carer suffers much more than the patient who does not realize what is/has happened to them. Husbands and wives who have little experience end up with no life as they give care 24/7.
    Mar
    4th Dec 2014
    12:24pm
    Your right Bes, I would like to know how much gets to the research too?
    particolor
    4th Dec 2014
    2:34pm
    I've had 3 Calls today already !!
    Red Cross.... Rural Fire.
    And one Id Never Heard Of ???
    Kato
    4th Dec 2014
    5:15pm
    or remember?
    particolor
    4th Dec 2014
    10:20pm
    I think it was Little Jack Horner wanting to sell Me a Christmas Pie ??
    niemakawa
    4th Dec 2014
    10:29pm
    No it was probably the chief union rep. What his name, oh yeah Shorten. Wanted to know if you were dead!
    KSS
    4th Dec 2014
    12:43pm
    I think this issue needs to be tackled on several fronts:

    1. We need to understand why the incidence of dementia is increasing. Is it simply a product of living longer in general? Is it something we are now doing/not doing, eating/not eating and so on that is different now to say 50 years ago? e.g. less physical activity, more chemicals e.g. plastics, more food additives, more manufactured food stuffs, computers and other technology meaning we don't use our brains in the same way as before etc etc etc.....

    2. We need to understand better the signs and symptoms and the progression of the condition.

    3. We need to develop prevention protocols after all, prevention is far better than any treatment.

    4. We need to evaluate current treatment regimes. Are they actually effective or is it more a case of doing 'something' is better than doing nothing?

    5. We need to investigate and develop new treatments. Or do we?

    6. We need to examine cost effective alternative care options. I happened to come across something on TV recently about how dementia is being handled in the Netherlands see here: http://dementiavillage.com/ and here: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/the-dutch-village-where-everyone-has-dementia/382195/ In the TV piece I saw the CEO/spokesperson stated that they did not receive any more funding than care facilities of the more traditional nursing home but they had far better outcomes. Try googling it if you are interested.

    7. We need to find ways to support family members better. I have long held the opinion dementia is worse for the family than for the sufferer. The sufferer after a certain point doesn't know/remember what is happening. Families mourn the person long before the person actually passes away.


    The costs for dementia are only going to keep rising. We are in financial difficulty now in healthcare in general. How are we going to afford to pay for everything?
    ROB
    4th Dec 2014
    12:43pm
    Research???? It is common in many diseased states that the person suffering with the disease will likely have depleted levels of Glutathione. One can only guess where dementia sufferers are at with their Glutathione levels. There are ways of raising Glutathione levels, most common are IV and capsules, costly, intrusive often with negative side effects and overall not generally effective anyway. A practical way of raising Glutathione levels successfully is using non transdermal patches. This same technology is now successfully being used in hospitals in France and elsewhere for various conditions. Low cost, easy for anyone to use, safe, no harmful side effects and extremely effective for raising Glutathione levels. While Australia is currently lagging far behind in accepting this later technology it can only be hoped that some day the local research may lean toward looking at effective alternatives such as these patches? This is not a criticism of research, this is definitely needed but there is surely no harm in looking outside the square. bhcscomp1@adam.com.au
    gillott
    4th Dec 2014
    1:02pm
    i have a husband with dementia, life is very difficult for us, until you live with somebody nobody can truly say what it is like. Friends shy away from you because your partner cant hold a conversation so that makes you feel more isolated and alone to handle the problems of confusion frustrations etc that comes with the disease.
    Mar
    4th Dec 2014
    4:42pm
    My heart goes out to you Gillott. It is one of the saddest afflictions, and the partner lives through it every day. I have a friend who coped with her husband having it for 7 years before finally going into the nursing home. Her whole life was completely changed and she finds it hard trying to get her life back, it leaves behind a lot of depression. I think eventually a lot more funding will have to go into trying to prevent the onset because it will effect so many and become a huge drain on the economy. There are support systems in place ,such as day respite, visiting care givers, trained volunteers. get all the help you can and try to take care of yourself as much as possible.
    Mar
    4th Dec 2014
    4:45pm
    Spot on Wally.
    Barbara Mathieson
    4th Dec 2014
    6:05pm
    Yes ! Dementias affect the carer almost more than the dementia patient. Society needs to be educated on this ageing ( mostly) problem. Don't 'shun' the patient and their carer - go out of your way to assist them please. It might be you one day!
    Kato
    4th Dec 2014
    8:04pm
    Spot on Barbara.
    niemakawa
    4th Dec 2014
    9:22pm
    I do not see any point in prolonging life, when there is none. A living will allowing a person to opt for euthanasia when they are no longer able to function.
    Kato
    4th Dec 2014
    10:04pm
    second that.
    Roisy
    4th Dec 2014
    9:53pm
    It is terribly hard to carers (the children, partner, siblings or friends) to say I am not coping and I need help! Then we have those that has been crying out for help, and there are none!
    There are Government subsidised Day therapy Centre with staff that are trained to have your love ones at one of these centres (for a small fee)
    Most provide transport for those that have no transport.
    At these centres, you will be given hot meals, adequate drinks, and participate in activities. They also organise trips to parks, beaches, or just for a drive. Then they deliver them home safely.
    If they have had an ACAT assessment and have approval for Residential Respite care, the family can plan to have some time off from their caring role, by sending the person to respite care in an aged care facility. This is not putting them for permanent care - this is only respite care. You have to make bookings for this type of respite. There are also emergency respite situation.
    Contact your GP to organise for your love one to have an ACAT assessment, and getting the eligibility to access these places.
    You have to look after yourself first before you can look after another person.
    HOLA
    5th Dec 2014
    6:47am
    I know it's this time of the year when all the charities start to ring for donations. I've had 4 calls in the last 2 weeks, Rural Fire, Epilepsy,Autism and SES. I said okay to two of them and said I'd donate $5.00 each." Oh no" they said" they start with $10.00 donations". I said alright but this is a one off donation and to please take my name off the mailing list. I got a receipt back from the two stating, "We are in this for the big haul" What a cheek, i'll be tearing up the next lot of " Please Donate" in the future. I'm sorry Charity begins at Home.
    niemakawa
    5th Dec 2014
    11:15am
    Some even ask for direct debits to make monthly donations, otherwise they are not interested. Too many charities with their fingers in the pie. They do not seem to be spending wisely.
    HOLA
    5th Dec 2014
    12:26pm
    How true niemakawa. Some of the CEOs are taking home fabulous wages. When that Tsunami hit Indonesia my friend donated her whole weeks pay because she felt so sorry for the people. Years later we find many of those poor struggling people are still living in tents. Even raising money for Band-aid. Do those poor starving souls ever benefit from it? I think not.
    pauline
    6th Dec 2014
    11:50am
    Unfortunately, we need to accept that age-related diseases are part of life. We can try our best to keep ourselves physically and mentally active to ward off dementia etc but as we get very very old, it becomes virtually impossible to avoid them all and we will succumb to at least one of these dreaded diseases. Who can say this is not nature's way of keeping the population down.
    Lee
    6th Dec 2014
    2:51pm
    I'm happy to pay a Medicare co-payment. Wasn't that going to go towards Medical research?
    ROB
    6th Dec 2014
    3:26pm
    To Pauline and Lee, Yes we wonder where the research money goes and wonder about the ideals of the medical system in Australia? We find the patches we use personally and in helping others around the world (as they are used in hospitals in Europe) can provide relief for many conditions and a far better quality of life as we age. It is often up to the individual to make a decision to consider the alternatives along with mainstream drugs and traditional treatments. See our previous note below.

    Research???? It is common in many diseased states that the person suffering with the disease will likely have depleted levels of Glutathione. One can only guess where dementia sufferers are at with their Glutathione levels. There are ways of raising Glutathione levels, most common are IV and capsules, costly, intrusive often with negative side effects and overall not generally effective anyway. A practical way of raising Glutathione levels successfully is using non transdermal patches. This same technology is now successfully being used in hospitals in France and elsewhere for various conditions. Low cost, easy for anyone to use, safe, no harmful side effects and extremely effective for raising Glutathione levels. While Australia is currently lagging far behind in accepting this later technology it can only be hoped that some day the local research may lean toward looking at effective alternatives such as these patches? This is not a criticism of research, this is definitely needed but there is surely no harm in looking outside the square. bhcscomp1@adam.com.au
    pauline
    7th Dec 2014
    2:33pm
    Niemakawa, I totally agree with you. I too do not see any point in prolonging life that is not worth living. When I get to the stage where there is absolutely no quality of life because of all the disabilities, aches and pains of old age, I can see no reason for hanging in there to consume limited resources of our planet.