President's report

Welcome to the first edition of Dementia News for 2016.

Graeme SamuelTo kick-off what will be another busy and exciting year for the organisation, we caught up with Dementia Australia National President Professor Graeme Samuel, and asked him to give us a wrap-up of some of the major highlights from 2015.

Professor Samuel also gives an update regarding key dementia care and research priority areas for Dementia Australia in 2016.

In what areas did Dementia Australia see major progress made or achieve success in 2015?

There were a number of major achievements Dementia Australia was involved in during 2015, including the successful younger onset dementia campaign.

The No Longer a Statistic campaign sought to highlight the prevalence of younger onset dementia, for people under the age of 65, within Australia and the unique needs of the more than 25,000 Australians expected to be living with a diagnosis of younger onset dementia. There are real concerns that with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the needs of younger Australians with dementia may be overlooked.

Dementia Australia remains in close contact with the government to ensure the needs of this group of Australians living with younger onset dementia will not be left behind with the introduction of the NDIS and that they will still have access to the specialist one-on-one support that so many find invaluable in the Younger Onset Dementia Keyworker Program.

Dementia Australia nationally celebrated another highly successful Dementia Awareness Month in September. In addition to raising the profile of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia which affects around 353,800 Australians, Dementia Awareness Month saw a number of events held around the country throughout September.

A highlight of the month was a visit by UK dementia expert Dr Gillian Ayling. Gillian is Head of Global Action Against Dementia (GAAD), UK Department of Health and met with government ministers and representatives and spoke at a Parliamentary Friends of Dementia (PFOD) event in Canberra about global responses to dementia care, policy and research. Gillian also presented dementia-friendly case studies from the UK to highlight the key elements that make dementia-friendly communities possible.

2015 also saw Dementia Australia win the contract as service provider for the new National Health and Medical Research Council’s National Institute of Dementia Research. The NNIDR has been set-up to co-ordinate and encourage the expansion of dementia research in Australia.

Part of the federal government’s $200 million commitment to boost dementia research, the government last year announced $35.6 million for NHMRC Dementia Research Team Grants, $43.7 million in funding for the NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellowships, and allocated $2.6 million to fund two major Australian dementia studies which will be part of the European Union's Joint Programme for Neurodegenerative Disease.

In your role as NNIDR chair what is the direction and focus for the institute this year?

It is critical that the NNIDR continue to collaborate with Australia’s best researchers, international partners, consumers, health professionals, industry and policy makers to translate evidence into policy and practice.

The Institute continues to work toward the goal of a five-year delay for the onset of dementia by 2025, which is the international priority set by the World Dementia Council. It is in this area that the Dementia Institute hopes to make a significant contribution.

There is a strong focus on consumer directed care that comes into effect this year, what changes or challenges do you see consumer directed care posing for people living with dementia?

Consumer directed care has the potential to empower consumers in a really positive way. For the first time the consumer will have the choice over what their care packages will look like. However, for a person who may have difficulties with cognition, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia this can be a very confusing and challenging task to ensure their needs will be met by the package they choose.

Another very important part of consumer directed care is the real need for consumer-driven quality measures which can guarantee consistency and quality of services provided across the sector.

It is important all consumers have equal access to good quality care and that is measured in a meaningful way that encourages providers to give consumers a good level of quality care.

Where would Dementia Australia like to see improvements in the care and treatment of people living with dementia made in 2016?

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia. It costs the aged care and health care sectors a conservative estimate of $4.9 billion annually. Dementia care is expected to become the third greatest source of health and residential aged care spending in two decades.

The need for a national comprehensive dementia strategy has never been greater. In 2015, the federal government committed $200 million to dementia research. This was a fantastic outcome, however we have just made a submission to the 2016 federal budget calling for $101.6 million over three years to support the estimated 353,800 people living with dementia in Australia today.

With a comprehensive, funded, national strategy that has measurable outcomes and builds on the existing areas of success we can develop a strategic, collaborative and cost effective response to dementia that will continue to support people living with dementia to achieve a high quality of life well into the future.