When someone loses an arm or a leg, we know exactly what’s missing; but with the loss of memory, something greater than memory is at stake. Memory isn’t just about remembering, and memory loss isn’t just about forgetting. Memory is responsible for creating continuity, meaning, coherence (both for ourselves and for those around us). Its integration into every function of life, from speaking and learning to the forming of relationships, actually makes its loss all the more difficult to comprehend, since the visible repercussions – repetition, confusion, anxiety and mood swings – distract us from the deeper, more intangible privation.
Dementia is not a single specific disease. It is an umbrella term describing a syndrome (a group of symptoms) associated with more than 100 different diseases that are characterised by the impairment of brain function, including language, memory, perception, personality and cognitive skills.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging and is a major health problem in Australia, with profound consequences for the health and quality of life for those with the condition and their family and friends.
- Dementia is the 2nd leading cause of death in Australia and to date, there is still no known cure;
- 2015 ABS statistics revealed an increase of 5% in deaths caused by this disease in the period between 2013-2015 and an increase of 30% over the past five years (2010-2015).
- As life expectancy increases (now at 80.1% males & 84.3% females) it is likely the number of deaths from dementia will continue to grow.
- There are presently more than 342,800 Australians living with dementia;
- Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is expected to be almost 900,000 by 2050;
- Each week, there are more than 1,800 new cases of dementia in Australia. That’s one person every six minutes;
- There are 25,100 people in Australia living with Younger Onset Dementia (a diagnosis of dementia under the age of 65, including people as young as 30);
- One in ten people over 65 have dementia;
- On average, symptoms of dementia are noticed by families three years before a firm diagnosis is made;
The Impact of Dementia in Australia
- Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (aged 65 years or older) and third leading cause of disability burden overall.
- Australia faces a shortage of more than 150,000 paid and unpaid carers for people with dementia by 2029;
- Total direct health and aged care systems expenditure on people with dementia was at least $4.9 billion in 2009-10;
- Dementia will become the third greatest source of health and residential aged care spending within two decades. These costs along will be around 1% GDP;
- By the 2060s, spending on dementia is set to outstrip that of any other health condition. It is projected to be $83 billion (in 2006/7 dollars), and will represent around 11% of health and residential aged care sector spending;
- More than 50% of residents in Australian government-subsidised aged care facilities have dementia (85,227 out of 164,116 permanent residents with ACFI assessment at 30 June, 2011)
- Almost half (44%) of permanent residents with dementia also had a diagnosis of mental illness.
- The Federal Government is providing an additional $200 million for dementia research of the next five years. This funding will significantly boost funding for Australia’s dementia research sector to over $60million per annum, and will begin to bring dementia research funding into line with other chronic diseases;
- One of the pressing issues is to build capacity in the dementia research sector by supporting students and early career dementia researches. The Alzheimer’s Australia dementia research Foundation, supported by donations from the public, plays a major role in this effort and will fund a number of new and early researchers through scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships in 2015.
- Worldwide, there are more than 44 million people with dementia today and 135million predicted by 2050;
- In high income countries only 20-50% of people with dementia are recognised and documented in primary care;
- If dementia was a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy.
All information provided by Alzheimer’s Australia.
For more information, go to www.fightdementia.org.au
National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500