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AIHW releases first dementia ‘compendium’ report in nine years


Matt Woodley


21/09/2021 5:15:29 PM

The comprehensive review includes the latest information on how dementia is affecting Australians and what the future may hold.

person with dementia playing cards with daughter.
One in 12 Australians aged 65 and older are living with dementia.

Dementia remains the second-leading cause of death in Australia, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found.
 
The Dementia in Australia 2021 report estimates that 386,200 Australians are living with a form of dementia, and that the number could more than double to 849,300 by 2058.
 
Head of the AIHW Dementia Unit, Dr Fleur de Crespigny, said the prediction is based on the AIHW’s estimate – which is at the lower end of the 386,200–472,000 range – with one recent study having predicted more than one million Australians will have dementia by 2056.
 
‘[Dementia] poses a substantial health, aged care and societal challenge, and with Australia’s rapidly ageing population, it is predicted to become an even bigger challenge in the future,’ she said.
 
‘Dementia was responsible for about 14,700 deaths in 2019 – accounting for 9.5% of all deaths that year.

‘It was the second leading cause of death in Australia, behind coronary heart disease and it was the leading cause of death among women [around 9,200 deaths in 2019].’
 
The report, launched at an online event by the Federal Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Senator Richard Colbeck, provides the latest statistics on population health impacts, carers and care needs, health and aged care service use and direct expenditure in relation to dementia.
 
It found that one in 12 Australians aged 65 and older are living with dementia, a rate that increases to two in 5 Australians aged 90 and older.
 
Nearly two-thirds of Australians living with dementia are women, while the rate of dementia among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is estimated to be 3–5 times as high as the rate for Australians overall.
 
While there is no known cure for dementia, Dr Terence Chong, a psychiatrist and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, previously told newsGP ‘approximately’ 40% of dementia risk is modifiable.
 
Additionally, more than 623,300 prescriptions were dispensed for dementia-specific medications in 2019–20, to help around 64,600 Australians aged 30 and over manage their symptoms.
 
The majority (65%) of people with dementia live in the community, but many require care and assistance from family and friends to do so, the report found.
 
In 2021, up to 337,200 Australians are believed to be providing constant unpaid care for a person with dementia, with more than half of all primary carers providing an average of 60 or more hours of unpaid care each week.
 
People born in non-English speaking countries and living in the community with dementia appear to be more likely to lean solely on friends and family for care, with less than half accessing other services. By contrast, only 30% of people with dementia who were born in English-speaking countries and living in the community relied on care from family and friends only.
 
The AIHW also states that many in the community in the advanced stages of dementia still rely on care and support provided by residential aged care facilities (RACFs), and that more than half of the people living in permanent residential aged care have dementia.
 
‘In 2018–19, $3 billion of health and aged care spending was directly attributable to dementia,’ Dr de Crespigny said.
 
‘This included $1.7 billion on residential aged care services, $596 million on community-based aged care services and $383 million on hospital services.
 
‘Although dementia is often considered to be an older person’s disease, it’s also estimated over 27,800 Australians aged under 65 are living with younger onset dementia.’
 
In 2019–20, one-third of people aged under 65 living in permanent residential aged care had younger onset dementia.
 
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