A new research report reveals that caring for an elderly person with dementia takes a greater toll on carers than other types of senior care.

The report says those caring for elderly people living with dementia suffer higher rates of distress, and spend more hours caring than those who are caring for other seniors.

The research showed that nearly half – 45 per cent – of those caring for seniors with dementia experienced distress. By comparison, only 26 per cent of those caring for other seniors experienced distress.

Those caring for elderly people with dementia at home also spent more time caring.

Those caring for seniors with dementia spend an average of 26 hours a week providing care, compared with 17 hours for caregivers of other seniors.

The research is contained in a new report Dementia in Canada compiled by the Canadian Institute of Health Information, but the trends can also be observed here in Australia.

“Caring for someone with dementia is one of the most challenging and stressful things you can do”

Jim Toohey, of Carers Queensland, told HelloCare, “Without a doubt, caring for someone with dementia is one of the most challenging and stressful things you can do.”

He said that many people with dementia are looked after in specialised operations, with purpose-built facilities, tailored care, and specially trained staff.

But when a person with dementia is cared for at home, usually by a loved one, that level of care often falls to only a single person.

Mr Toohey said he often observes the huge physical impact on the carer of caring for an elderly person with dementia at home.

How can we ease the burden on carers?

Mr Toohey said those caring for elderly people with dementia at home often have no respite, which compound the difficulty of their job because they don’t get a break.

He said that if those carers could be given a break from time to time, it could help to alleviate some of the strain.

There are thousands of aged care beds available across the country, said Mr Toohey, and hundreds of thousands of people with dementia being cared for at home. It would be good if some of those beds could be used for respite care, he said.

Mr Toohey said an upcoming report by the Aged Care Finance Authority could recommend that aged care operators provide empty beds for respite care, and the government fund those beds as though they were filled permanently.

Mr Toohey said carers are easing the burden on taxpayers by caring for their loved ones at home, so the government should be supporting them.

Dementia in Australia

The number of people in Australia living with dementia is rising rapidly. There are currently an estimated 425,416 people in Australia with dementia. That number is expected to rise to 536,164 by 2025, and more than 1.1 million by 2056.

Dementia is now the leading cause of death among women, and is the second leading cause of death for all Australians.

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