Health

Calls for national dementia strategy

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New economic modelling shows the cost of dementia will reach more than $1 trillion by 2056.

The government must develop a national dementia strategy because Australians are scared of the insidious disease costing billions, the president of Alzheimer's Australia says.

Each day in Australia, 244 people are diagnosed with dementia.

Without a cure, this is expected to increase to 328 people each day in 2026, and a staggering 653 people a day in 2056.

Apart from the human cost, new economic modelling shows the burden on the health system will be massive.

A report conducted by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), released on Wednesday, estimates dementia to cost almost $15 billion in 2017, more than double the figure in 2002.

This is projected to skyrocket to $1.033 trillion during the next four decades.

The report also shows just a five per cent reduction in the number of people developing dementia over the age of 65 could lead to savings of $120.4 billion by 2056.

Alzheimer's Australia National president Graeme Samuel says the figures are a big wake-up call.

He wants a government funded National Dementia Strategy to deal with the issue, along with a focus on early diagnosis and prevention and risk reduction measures.

"The time for action is now. If we don't do something now, the cost is going to continue to grow to unsustainable levels," Professor Samuel said.

Pauline (left) and David Doig.
Pauline (left) and David Doig.
SBS

When Pauline and David Doig retired in 2010 they were excited about a European adventure, but then David was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Pauline told SBS becoming a full time carer was tough, with simple tasks now a struggle for David.

"It's really frustrating," Pauline said. "I've lost my patience, but not a lot. I really do believe keeping calm helps so much.

"Even just emptying the dishwasher now is a big job for David, but I still leave him the cutlery basket."

Pauline and David have been married for 50 years. They have three children and 10 grandchildren.

David said he liked to keep a sense of humour about it all.

"It's pretty good because it's [Alzheimer's disease] the sort of thing where I drive everybody else crazy but I don't sort of bother myself," David said.

Pauline said she is hoping more research will lead to a cure.

"I know there will be a cure," Pauline said. "Every day I wake up and I say today may be the day."

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt insisted dementia was a priority issue for the federal government, having committed $200 million over five years to dementia research.

The government was also investing $52 million on dementia support programs in 2016/17, he said.

"Our clear goal is that every Australian living with dementia will have access to the same quality of care, tailored to their needs, no matter where they live or who they are," he said.

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