Dementia is the third most underlying cause of death in Australia and 2010 alone; it accounted for 6% of all deaths. In 2011 30% of the people aged 85 years and above had dementia with the majority being women (62%). The number of people with dementia is expected to increase from 298,000 in 2011 to 400,000 by 2020(AIHW, 2012). These statistics led to the Australian Health Ministers recognizing dementia as the ninth National priority area. Various measures have been set up to support the people with dementia especially the elderly.
In the past, several factors have been attributed to the increasing number of people with dementia. The elements are not directly linked to the cause of dementia, but they have largely contributed to the late diagnosis of the disease (AIHW, 2012). Some of the symptoms of dementia are similar to the typical symptoms observed in old age making them difficult to rule out. Dementia is a disease that progresses slowly hence, it is difficult to pinpoint its symptoms. Lack of detailed knowledge by the healthcare providers combined with limited access to specialists has also contributed to the late dementia diagnosis.
In addition to the complexity of the diagnosis process, dementia does not have a cure. Only supportive measures can be offered to the patients to ease the burden of the disease. The Australian Government is now focusing more on dementia, it is putting more effort on dealing with dementia at a local, national, and state government level, and it is supporting non-governmental organizations and other dementia health experts. Furthermore, the government is appreciating the current and proposed work done by the National Framework for Action on Dementia (AIHW, 2012). In 2005, the Australian government announced that it would fund the dementia initiative with the aim of supporting the people with dementia and help them in their careers. High- level community centers were established, new training programs for health professionals were set up to reduce cases of delayed dementia diagnosis and additional research centers to come up with detailed knowledge of dementia.
As much as the government is putting up different measures to support the people with dementia, there is a lot that still needs to be done. Dementia is a condition that affects a vast number of people, especially when it comes to Alzheimer's disease (Newman et al., 2005). Dementia being a progressive disease means that the condition worsens with time and the patients will need all the supportive care they can get (Walsh, D 2006). Not to mention the fact that dementia does not have a cure. Therefore, only good care practices will be able to make a difference in the patients' lives.
Another crucial measure that should be taken to support patients with dementia in the public hospitals includes monetary help. Some people have dementia in addition to other chronic illnesses, and this makes it quite expensive to manage all the conditions. Some of the patients with dementia die due to complications related to other preexisting diseases. Diabetes mellitus and hypertension are common among the elderly, and the Cardiovascular health study found out that there is a connection between cardiovascular disease and dementia. People with arterial heart disease have a higher chance of developing dementia due to peripheral atherosclerosis (Newman et al.2005). Other vascular risk factors have also been linked to Alzheimer's disease and dementia depending on the age of the patient (McNamara, P. 2011). The pathophysiological and metabolic changes in the body such as the body mass index and total serum cholesterol play a role in the development of dementia.
Similarly, patients with dementia need residential aged care facilities in the public hospitals. This will enable them to get maximum assistance especially the elderly patients who need round the clock help. The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission (NHHRC) noted that there were changes in the disease patterns among the elderly with increasing incidences of diseases such as dementia and the overall cost associated with their care (The Productivity Commission, 2001). The Australian government requested the commission to come up with solutions that would get rid of the complexities of the aged care systems and provide financial protection to the old patients. The intergenerational report of 2010 projected that the government would increase its expenditure on aged care projects from 0.8% to 1.8% from 2010 to 2050 (The Productivity Commission, 2001). This decision will significantly ease the burden on family members since dementia is a life-long disease and it is financially challenging to take care of someone until they die.Due to the progressive nature of dementia, patients who are diagnosed early enough need counseling to help them come to terms with the condition and the fact that it does not have a cure. People diagnosed with dementia at an early age go through a lot of spiritual, emotional, and physical stress (Newman et al., 2005). They have to prepare themselves mentally for the time they will start experiencing memory loss and the loss of other body functions too. People with dementia need all the psychological help they can get from their families and emotional caregivers while still upholding their dignity (Taylor, 2006). Proper counseling centers with trained counselors or psychologists should be set up in the public hospitals also to enable family members to understand dementia and the challenges that come with it. The government should also organize health experts to educate the general society on dementia. This will raise awareness, and more people will understand what dementia is and how to live with the people who have it.
In conclusion, dementia prevalence is increasing worldwide. The statistics of the people living with dementia is alarming, and therefore public hospitals should be well equipped to handle all the patients. The government so far is doing a commendable job but there is room for improvement, and more dementia projects can be done. Regardless of dementia being a terminal illness, the patients can still live a fulfilling life with the help of a good support system. Public hospitals can accommodate a large number of patients compared to private hospitals, and the government should continue expanding the public hospitals to ensure all the dementia patients are well taken care of. This will also reduce the number of patients dying from complications arising from other pre-existing illnesses since the diseases will be treated along with dementia.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). (2012). Dementia in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dementia/dementia-in-australia/contents/table-of-contents
McNamara, P. (2011). Dementia: History and incidence. Santa Barbara: Praeger.
Newman AB1, Fitzpatrick AL, Lopez O, Jackson S, Lyketsos C, Jagust W, Ives D, Dekosky ST,
Newman, A. B., Fitzpatrick, A. L., Lopez, O., Jackson, S., Lyketsos, C., Jagust, W., ... & Kuller, L. H. (2005). Dementia and Alzheimer's disease incidence in relationship to cardiovascular disease in the Cardiovascular Health Study cohort. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 53(7), 1101-1107.
Taylor, R. (2007). Alzheimer's from the inside out. Baltimore, MD: Health Professions Press.
The Productivity Commission (2011). Caring for older Australians. Retrieved from https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/aged-care
Walsh, D. (2006). Dementia care training manual for staff working in nursing and residential settings. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
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