Providing support to carers who are looking after older people with dementia doesn’t delay or prevent the move into residential aged care, a comprehensive analysis of recent research has found.

A Productivity Commission report identified a raft of mainly international studies of interventions which were designed to help older people with dementia age in place by supporting their carers.

The review, released on Thursday, looked at 26 policies and interventions including case management, building education and skills, counselling and provision of respite.

Ara Cresswell
Ara Cresswell

It found only three of these interventions – two involving counselling and the other involving case management – were effective in preventing or delaying entry into residential care.

However, the evidence of the effectiveness of the counselling was “inconclusive” and the case management wouldn’t have translated well in an Australian context.

“Interventions that support carers of older people with dementia show limited effectiveness in achieving the outcome of preventing or delaying entry into residential care,” the review concludes.

“Reducing the risk and delaying the progression of dementia may be a more fruitful avenue to prevent or delay entry into residential care than interventions to support carers.”

But it adds this doesn’t mean that dementia related funding for carer services, resources and research should be reduced, as supporting carers of people with dementia had what may be more important benefits than keeping the person with dementia at home.

This included improve the carer’s quality of life potentially reducing their own health risks.

The commission says by 2056 more than a million people will be living with dementia and at risk of being placed in residential care.

It says most people would prefer to age in place and the role of carers is crucial if older people with dementia are to remain in the community.

Comment has been sought from Dementia Australia and Carers Australia.

Carers Australia calls for NDIS respite

It comes as a position paper released by Carers Australia on Wednesday called for the NDIS to specifically fund respite for carers.

“Carers … often get tired, stressed and sick, CEO Ara Cresswell said. “When carers burn out, or fear they will burn out, they need a rest to recharge their batteries.

“However, respite for carers is not a named service under the NDIS.”

National Disability Insurance Agency CEO Rob de Luca said the agency understood the need to give carers a break.

“Supports funded in the NDIS plans include short term accommodation, in-home support, community access and personal care,” he said.

However Ms Cresswell said the  language was confusing and carers using the term “respite” would be told by NDIS planners this is not available, largely because of a reluctance to use the term because of concerns it had negative connotations.

Only 1.3 per cent of NDIS participants currently access short term accommodation support the position paper says.

It also says before the NDIS was introduced, carers were able to access respite through a number of national and state programs which are often no longer available.

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