Receiving a dementia diagnosis can be a challenging experience for a person and their loved ones.

They say that an early diagnosis is ideal, because it allows their family and the person with the condition to prepare for the future.

This usually means getting their affairs in order and making choices that they may not be able to in the future.

Financials are often one of the biggest setbacks that people face, and what many are often not prepared for is the “cost” of dementia.

Between medical appointments, treatments and therapies, home modifications and aged care, families will spend thousands on trying to ensure their loved one with dementia is getting the best care.

Overall, the national estimate that the cost of dementia care to our economy each year is more than $15 billion annually. But can this cost be reduced? Dementia Australia believes so.

The cost to care for a person living with dementia in residential aged care, released by Flinders University, reaffirms Dementia Australia’s call for the urgent need for ongoing, systemic, aged care reform.

The annual cost of $88,000 to care for a person living with dementia in residential aged care can be decreased by improving the training or our workforce and applying dementia-friendly principles in the community, throughout the aged care sector and in hospitals.

Maree McCabe, CEO Dementia Australia said with 425,000 people living with dementia in Australia, and new people being diagnosed every day, more needs to be done to create accessible and cost-effective services that anyone with dementia can use.

The Flinders University report found that 54 per cent of the costs involved were pharmacological and 38 per cent related to hospital care.

What this means is that the majority of costs is going to medical, drug based treatments – rather than opting for alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, music therapy or a Montessori approach.

“This suggests that clinical interventions are more common in residential aged care rather than optioning for a more holistic approach,” Ms McCabe said.

“We know from our own research and internationally that person-centred care can reduce the use of antipsychotics and other drugs.”

If carers and aged care staff were better trained, they would be more equipped to care for people with dementia and there would be less of a need to medicated and sedate them with antipsychotics.

“Greater investment in training and education across the acute and aged care sectors in the management of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia will result in improved quality of life for people living with dementia and decrease the length of stay in hospitals,” says Ms McCabe.

The research found that cost of residential care constituted 94% of the total dementia costs. So, if there were ways for people to delay the move to aged care it could significantly reduce the cost.

“Building awareness of dementia-friendly principles will also support people in their communities to remain meaningfully engaged and potentially stay in their homes for longer,” says Ms McCabe.

“This research reinforces the need for more strategic investment in dementia services to avoid an escalation in costs that will be unsustainable.”

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