At least 385,000 Australians have dementia and almost two-thirds of them are women, a new and comprehensive report from the Australian Institute of Heath and Welfare shows.
The AIHW estimates there are between 386,200 and 472,000 Australians with dementia in 2021 and it expects the figure to grow to 849,300 by 2058.
In 2019-20, over half of both female and male aged care residents had dementia (54 per cent), according to AIHW’s Dementia in Australia 2021 report, which was launched on Monday to coincide with Dementia Action Week.
It is the AIHW’s first major report on dementia since 2012 and includes the latest statistics on population health impacts, carers and care needs, health and aged care service use and direct expenditure related to dementia.
It shows that dementia, which is second leading cause of death in Australia and the top cause of death among women, rises quickly with age, affecting one in 12 Australians aged 65 and two in five Australians aged 90 and over.
In 2018-19, $3 billion of health and aged care spending was directly attributable to dementia, with the majority going to residential aged care ($1.7 billion) and community aged care ($596 million) services.
In residential aged care depression and mood disorders were the top comorbidities among residents living with dementia (47 per cent) in 2019-20 followed by a range of arthritic disorders (45 per cent).
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck, who launched the report at a virtual event on Monday, said it was important to have up-to-date data on dementia.
“This is a valuable report that provides an updated comprehensive picture of dementia and its impacts on Australia’s health and aged care sectors,” Mr Colbeck told the event.
“Dementia will touch the lives of every Australian. So it’s vital that as a government, we have good data and information at our fingertips,” he said.
“We look forward to the reform journey ahead, working with all our stakeholders to ensure dementia care, and all aged care is provided with respect, care, and dignity.”
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe echoed Mr Colbeck’s comments about the importance of accurate data.
“Better data about the experiences of Australians living with dementia and the people who care for them are essential and can be used to improve policies and support services for those who need the most and to assist in our future planning,” Ms McCabe said on Monday.
“For Dementia Australia up-to-date data is invaluable. It ensures that we have a correct view of the scale of dementia in Australia and certainly gives us a better sense of the real impact it’s having on so many Australians across all backgrounds.”
According to a Dementia Australia report also launched on Monday, two-thirds of Australians with dementia expect to be discriminated against because of their diagnosis.
“Our research shows that people living with dementia and carers experienced discrimination that can lead to social isolation, to loneliness and to poor mental health and COVID-19 has intensified these experiences, Ms McCabe said.
Dementia monitoring centre announced
Elsewhere at Monday’s virtual event, Mr Colbeck announced $13 million in Federal funding for the AIHW to establish the National Centre for Monitoring Dementia to routinely monitor dementia care in Australia.
Also this week, Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt announced an additional $25.5 million available under the federally funded Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission for dementia research and release and implementation of the mission’s roadmap.
The roadmap outlines the goals and priorities for investment for the $185 million mission.
“The research will improve the quality of life for Australians as they age, reduce stigma associated with dementia and enable better outcomes for older people,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.
Dementia Action Week takes place on 20 – 26 September.
This story first appeared in Australian Ageing Agenda.