Inquiry into Dementia: Early Diagnosis and Intervention

Submission to House Standing Committee on Health and Ageing Inquiry into Dementia: Early Diagnosis and Intervention
May 2012

COTA Australia welcomes this Inquiry as the issues around diagnosis and then support for people with dementia is an issue of great importance to older people and is often raised in forums hosted by COTAs around the country. The provision of adequate dementia care was raised in the ‘Conversations on Ageing’ conducted by the Minister for Ageing in 2011/12 with people raising concerns about the adequacy of community care, the need for more research and better treatments and some very specific issues raised with regard to younger people with dementia.

COTA is pleased that the terms of reference for this Inquiry essentially mirror the benefits of timely diagnosis to both the person with dementia and their families and carers as identified by consumers.
These benefits include:

  • better understanding of the cause of the symptoms and the progression of the disease;
  • timely access to potentially beneficial medications to help with some of the symptoms of dementia;
  • timely access to information, counselling and support services as well as the opportunity to build new support networks;
  • time to put in place plans for legal, financial and future medical care including enduring powers of attorney and advanced health directives; and
  • time to make important choices around family, employment, accommodation and social relationships before the dementia progresses.

All of these enable people to make choices and decisions that optimise the quality of their lives and to remain independent, with appropriate supports, for as long as possible.

Despite there being this acceptance of the benefits of timely diagnosis the majority of people with dementia live and die with the condition without receiving diagnosis at all and in Australia the average time from symptoms appearing to diagnosis is 3.1 years which can hardly be considered timely.

The Living Longer. Living Better. package of aged care reform addresses some of these issues and COTA joins Alzheimer’s Australia in welcoming the dementia package within those reforms. We welcome the commitment in the package to reduce the period of time from symptom onset to diagnosis and believe that our recommendations will make a positive contribution to achieving that objective.

We support the submission and recommendations from Alzheimer’s Australia to the Inquiry. Our submission is informed by the input from our members and the broader older population and focuses on areas for improvement.