“With dementia now the biggest health issue facing Australians over 65 years, now more than ever we need greater investment in quality of life at the end of life,” says Camilla Rowland, Chief Executive Officer, Palliative Care Australia (PCA).
New data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveals that dementia has overtaken coronary heart disease as the leading cause of disease burden among older Australians.
“We need to better integrate dementia care and palliative care so that the 400,000 Australians currently living with dementia can make the most of life – and for a lot of those people, that will mean many years of quality living and relationships,” Ms Rowland says.
“Our own data points to the growing need for palliative care, KPMG report that demand will increase by 50% in the coming decade and double by 2050.
“As people and families living with dementia seek more out of life, demand for palliative care will grow further.
“Palliative care must be available from the time of diagnosis. It is so important that people who are diagnosed with dementia are immediately supported with wholistic, person-centred care and connections to medical teams, allied health professionals and social workers to assist them and their loved ones navigate their next steps,” Ms Rowland says.
The development of a National Dementia Action Plan is a step in the right direction, PCA’s submission as part of the recent consultation highlights the need for palliative care to be made available to people early in their journey, not just in the final weeks or days of life.
“The Aged Care Royal Commission made 12 recommendations that palliative care and dementia care be embedded in aged care. Health professionals and those employed in aged care need to be supported in this with appropriate and timely training,” Ms Rowland says.
“Palliative Care Australia’s May 2023 Budget Submission presents the actions and investment needed to train existing and new staff and increase access to palliative care.
“The number of Australians living with dementia is expected to double by 2058, dementia is the biggest health issue of the 21st century, now is the time for greater investment in palliative care.
“We look forward to continuing our work with our friends at Dementia Australia so that more Australians have access to the care and support they deserve.”