During Dementia Action Week (20-26 September), it is important that we look at the role of unpaid carers, and the change required to support them.
On 20 September, The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released their Dementia in Australia 2021 report, the first large scale government report on dementia in Australia.
The report outlines a comprehensive picture of dementia and where this disease fits in with Australia’s health care system – with a large focus on unpaid carers.
To understand the scale at which dementia affects the community, it is listed as the second leading cause of death in Australia and is the number one cause of death for women. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, it is the fifth leading cause of death. Overall, it is the fifth leading cause of death nationally.
Resthaven recognises that dementia is more prevalent in older people, and the current research shows that 1 in 12 Australians over the age of 65 are diagnosed with dementia, and 2 in 3 Australians are living with the diagnosis in the community.
Interestingly, the research indicates that more than 27,800 Australians under the age of 65 are diagnosed with early-onset dementia, people who are often living at home.
With this information, the report highlights that between 134,900 and 337,200 Australians, usually family members, are left with the responsibility of becoming unpaid carers to support their loved ones.
While we look at the statistics, it is also important that we consider this at a personal level for people who are all in varied circumstances. On average, unpaid carers provide more than 60 hours of care each week, often forcing them to leave their paid jobs, with one in three reducing their hours of paid work to provide the care required. Unsurprisingly, one in four unpaid carers have reported that they require more respite support to be sustainable.
The support needed for unpaid carers is becoming increasingly costly, with Australia’s health and aged care spending in dementia totalling $3 billion. Resthaven has recently been awarded substantial additional funding to provide Community Respite Services in the Southern Metropolitan area from 1 January 2022.
A clear positive to come out of the report is that dementia care is moving forward in Australia, and by shining a light on unpaid carers who need support, we are recognising the large scope of dementia and the required change.
Established in 1935, Resthaven is a South Australian not-for-profit aged care community service associated with the Uniting Church in Australia.
Every day, Resthaven shares the lives and wisdom of older people and their carers, opening doors to the full range of aged care service options available.
Services are provided throughout metropolitan Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills, Murraylands, Riverland, Fleurieu Peninsula, lower Barossa region and the Limestone Coast of South Australia.