The real cost of dementia care in Australia

An Australian university calculates the true cost of dementia care in Australia.

The real cost of dementia care in Australia

Recently published research reveals the real cost of dementia care, with the findings proving to be “much higher” than previous estimates.

The Direct health and residential care costs of people living with dementia in Australian residential aged care study, is believed to be the most precise research of its kind, with researchers examining 541 individuals in 17 aged care homes.

It revealed that the total annual cost of caring for someone with dementia in residential aged care is around $88,000, with 54 per cent of the total put towards pharmacological costs and 38 per cent to hospital care.

National peak bodies, such as Dementia Australia, are calling for a full overhaul of the aged care sector, with a focus on reducing costs and informing sustainable future funding.

“This suggests that clinical interventions are more common in residential aged care rather than optioning for a more holistic approach,” said Dementia Australia Chief Maree McCabe.

“We know from our own research and internationally that person-centred care can reduce the use of antipsychotics and other drugs.

“Greater investment in training and education across the acute and aged care sectors in the management of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia will result in improved quality of life for people living with dementia and decrease the length of stay in hospitals.

“Building awareness of dementia-friendly principles will also support people in their communities to remain meaningfully engaged and potentially stay in their homes for longer.

“This research reinforces the need for a more strategic investment in dementia services to avoid an escalation in costs that will be unsustainable.”

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) Chief Pat Sparrow says that the research provides “valuable detail” on the true cost of dementia care and hopes for a “fuller understanding” of the sector’s needs.

“By presenting a comprehensive study of 541 people living with dementia and their care needs, this research provides a clearer understanding of the cost of meeting those needs particularly when it comes to the complex health needs of the many older Australians in residential care living with dementia,” said Ms Sparrow.

“With rates of dementia predicted to double by 2050, and one in three Australians born today eventually facing a dementia diagnosis, we need to be sure that future funding for aged care is sustainable and ensures that as a community, we are able to tackle the enormous social and economic challenge of dementia into the future.

“Now is the time to secure the funding mix that will allow the sector to adequately care for older Australians with dementia as they age.

Ms McCabe commended “surveys like this” in contributing to growing our understanding of the scale of the societal and economic challenge posed by a growing population of older Australians living with dementia, adding that it is “now up to the Government to heed the lessons research like this provides”.

Were you aware that the cost of dementia care was so high? Are you caring for someone with dementia? Do you do it from home or in a residential care facility?

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    COMMENTS

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    Eclair
    29th Jan 2018
    10:20am
    Many over-50s realize the personal value of belonging to U3A but this shows the tremendous value to the community. U3A's learning and leisure activities keep members active (mentally, physically and socially) which helps ward off the worst evils of ageing and keeps them living independently in their own homes for longer. Warding off dementia for just a year or two for its thousands of members must save the health budget millions. How much federal funding do they receive? Zero. Nada. $0! Health budgets are under such stress from immediate needs it is hard to think about spending on preventative measures. But surely governments should be looking at the big picture and putting money into dementia prevention.
    Anonymous
    29th Jan 2018
    2:52pm
    Excellent post. And keep reading books, solving puzzles, and so forth. Use it (your brain) or lose it!
    GeorgeM
    30th Jan 2018
    3:13pm
    Good points, Eclair. Prevention should be the initial and a major focus, however how much research & publicity is there for that?

    The article above states "With rates of dementia predicted to double by 2050, ....", and Dementia Australia Chief Maree McCabe says "“now up to the Government to heed the lessons research like this provides”". Instead of leaving it the Govt, how about her organisation take some responsibility to reduce the increasing numbers for this major problem by promoting prevention methods!
    Charlie
    29th Jan 2018
    11:03am
    I will pay nothing as I will have nothing and I wont understand what is going on?
    Watch for the big statistical link between dementia and death management.
    Rosret
    29th Jan 2018
    11:28am
    mmm.
    Rosret
    29th Jan 2018
    11:31am
    So where does it stop. Cancer treatments are incredibly expensive. Will they stop giving assistance at a certain age, if you don't pass an IQ test etc. This all sounds a little like Nazi Germany.
    Anonymous
    29th Jan 2018
    2:55pm
    "Will they stop giving assistance at a certain age, if you don't pass an IQ test etc." Not a bad idea - eradicating low IQs? But we need the dumbest people to do menial labour.
    tisme
    29th Jan 2018
    11:09am
    has anyone factored in the real cost of those who care for family members with dementia in their own homes ?/ the cost of loss of income while the govt pays u 3.50 an hour ?? loss of superannuation etc ?? I doubt it
    Anonymous
    29th Jan 2018
    2:56pm
    The Home-Care Package industry needs more support and more good workers. If the government wants the elderly to remain in their homes, then they'd better put their money where their mouth is. Anyway, nursing homes are awful. (I know: I was briefly in three of them.)
    Tib
    29th Jan 2018
    11:10am
    Euthanasia Is the answer , I am talking about myself here but there are a whole bunch of illnesses I don't wish to live with and this is one of them. If I decide that life has little value make it easy for me to make a dignified exit. Saves the government money and me a whole lot of misery.
    Jennie
    29th Jan 2018
    12:41pm
    Tib I totally agree with you.
    But as you would know the only answer re euthanasia and dementia is to do-it-yourself. You will have no help from any legislation if not mentally competent. This means of course that if we get dementia we will have to take our own lives sooner rather than later, in other words before we actually need to go, especially if we do not want to go into an aged care facility or have stressed family members caring for us. OK, there is the care package, (this is cheaper than residential care - hence the government push for this) but it is not there 24/7. Night time is when falls, sundown syndrome and disorientation can occur with no-one there to help.
    Tib
    29th Jan 2018
    12:59pm
    I agree, but I wish we could manage this better. Some government support would be better, but I know it won't happen.
    Anonymous
    29th Jan 2018
    2:58pm
    Hmmm... I have some sympathy for the pro-euthanasia lobby, but euthanasia is a slippery slope. Where is the line drawn?
    Tib
    29th Jan 2018
    3:21pm
    Knows-a-lot I understand your concern but my father died a very slow and painful death. Trust me when your screaming in pain you're not concerned about slippery slopes or lines, you just want it to stop and the pain can go on for a very long time. Before anyone mentions palliative care, that was palliative care. Which by the way is a great way to die screaming lying in your own shit.
    Anonymous
    30th Jan 2018
    5:22pm
    I just don't get it. A person can legally specify that under conditions XXX and YYY, they do not wish to be kept alive by any artificial means, drugs, treatments, etc. but only kept in reasonable comfort and allowed to die peacefully. The document specifying that wish has to be drawn with the help of a doctor and a lawyer when the person is deemed fully competent and able to make an informed decision.
    Why on earth can't that document be extended to say ''under conditions AAA and BBB I want to be assisted to die''?

    Yes, Tib, I watched two loved ones die very slow and painful deaths. One was a young mother, and her very young children had to watch her fade away slowly. She expressed, very early in her illness, a desire to be helped to die as soon as she reached a level of serious incapacity, but that wish was denied.

    I don't accept that the risks are as great as many claim, personally. I think if the legislation were sensibly worded, the risks would be quite minimal. You can't eliminate risks completely, but which is worse - the occasional wrongful premature death, or vast numbers who want to die being made to suffer?
    Jennie
    29th Jan 2018
    12:33pm
    "..the total annual cost of caring for someone with dementia in residential aged care is around $88,000, with 54 per cent of the total put towards pharmacological costs and 38 per cent to hospital care."
    So if 92% of $88,000 goes to pharmacological and hospital care, only 8% of $88,000 (=$7,040) is the cost of accommodation, carers, laundry, food etc annually??
    TooKool
    29th Jan 2018
    7:41pm
    Well, those stats might explain why the Berri orange juice was watered down in my Dad's very expensive aged care facility...management automatically put my father on half-sized meals when he first went there until we insisted he be given bigger portions...it beggars belief...
    Christina
    29th Jan 2018
    12:57pm
    Me too, Tib. How realistic is it that these organisations expect the Government to cought up for research for every situation and illness? We have to accept that chances are that we will one day die of some form of illness or weakness.
    Dementia is final - you don't recover. It only gets worse. But it is just one of many ailments that will affect mainly the aged and elderly. And we should prepare for that.
    Euthanasia is nowadays called Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD). But not in Australia, yet. When politicians here will finally come to their senses and decide that we should have a law that regulates how, when and where we want to die, it will make life a lot happier for many people.
    However, even with a law in place, it is important to go through the steps required: write your Advance Health Directive, and appoint a Legal Guardian. Do it now.
    Blondie
    29th Jan 2018
    12:59pm
    In the near future, governments will come to their senses ( as they have in Victoria recently) and bring in voluntary euthanasia for the elderly not only for those that are dying, but for those who have been diagnosed with dementia. Not recognising your family would be a death sentence, speaking for myself. Dr Nietchke saw this coming, but politicians and religious nutters demonised this humanitarian.What a tragedy!
    Anonymous
    29th Jan 2018
    3:00pm
    Slippery slope... as for "religious nutters", I'd be more concerned about atheist nutters.
    Jennie
    29th Jan 2018
    8:35pm
    I don't think Know-a-lot knows a lot. The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy.
    grumpyoldwoman
    29th Jan 2018
    2:08pm
    I look after my husband diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in recent years. I am on Carer pension and he the Disability pension. He also has been battling Cancer for the last 8 years, it also incurable. Up until this Christmas we were both on newstart and doing 15hrs a week each volunteering. We are on a waiting list for an Aged Care Assessment and Home Package, which is about a four month wait...(unless it becomes urgent!) I could share more but I haven't the time!!!!! We survive by having a good sense of humour, and alot of patience....at least we have a little help now from our Council around the house and a little goes along way here.
    Anonymous
    29th Jan 2018
    3:02pm
    You certainly have my sympathy. I've been through some of these things. The worst aspect is dealing with uncaring bureaucracies.
    Lottie
    29th Jan 2018
    7:31pm
    If 54% of residential aged care is pharmacological, then an Australian phone application could be the answer to assessing and managing pain in Dementia patients. Currently being
    trialled in 4 facilities in Western Australia, “PainChekTM uses cameras in smartphones and tablets to capture a brief video of the person, which is analysed in real time using facial recognition software to detect the presence of facial micro- expressions that are indicative of the presence of pain. This data is then combined with other indicators of pain, such as vocalisations, behaviours and movements captured to calculate a pain severity score. Due to its speed, ease of use and it’s reproducibility, PainChekTM will be able to be used to detect and measure a person’s pain, and then further measurements can be used to monitor the effectiveness of pain management.
    PainChekTM will be rolled out globally in two phases: first, PainChekTM which is designed for adults who are unable to effectively verbalise their pain such as people with dementia, and second, PainChekTM for Children who have not yet learnt to speak.“
    VeryCaringBigBear
    2nd Feb 2018
    8:45am
    Dementia is actually a good thing but is being treated as an illness instead. It is a way of dying peacefully. In times past people would just wander off and die to be eaten by wild animals. Such people are unaware of their needs where they are etc so it allows them to die without the worry and trauma of those with full capacity. We should assist these people to die rather than live the life of a zoombie.