AN estimated 1600 people live with dementia in the Orange electorate and Alzheimer’s Australia has pushed for urgent government intervention to curb the growing health bill.
The organisation commissioned the The Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056 report, which predicted the number of dementia patients would grow to 2000 people by 2025 and 3500 by 2056.
Nationally, the cost to the community through hospital bills, medication, residential care and lost income for those who gave up work to care for their loved ones reached $14 billion and would climb a further $4 billion in eight years’ time as the number of people living with the condition continued to rise.
Alzheimer’s Australia NSW chief executive officer John Watkins said Orange’s patient number would have been closer to 1000 in 2010 and the figures were alarming and a wake-up call.
“It’s becoming a massive burden on the taxpayer,” he said.
He renewed the call for a funded National Dementia Strategy to deal with the issue, along with a greater focus on risk reduction measures.
“People are getting older and living longer and that’s the main risk factor, so there’s nothing we can do about that, but there’s something all of us can do about the way we live,” he said.
Risk factors include smoking, high alcohol consumption, low exercise and poor heart health.
“If we can cut the number of people diagnosed by just 5 per cent, that would save us almost $6 billion between 2016 and 2025, that turns into a huge saving,” he said.
Mr Watkins said a strategy should include a risk reduction program to raise awareness of brain health and the links between lifestyle and the risk of developing dementia and continued research to improve treatments for the disease.
He also said a consumer-based care program was needed to improve aged care services in residential aged care and in the community, as well as improving access to quality respite care to support families and carers.
“Sometimes they just need a break,” he said
“It’s a very difficult disease to cope with because there’s a major change in behaviour whereas if they have a bad heart or cancer, they retain the person they were, they can recognise their loved ones.
“If you understand the disease, you’re much more able to cope with it.”