Age will weary us all

By BELINDA F SCOTT

SPECIALISED dementia courses will be introduced to the Coffs Coast this year as analysts predict dementia numbers will double in 20 years.

Research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed 175,000 people with dementia in 2003, which cost the nation about $1.4 billion.

The national analysis predicts this number will increase 2.5 times to 465,000 by 2031, figures which have been described as due to 'an epidemic of ageing.'

The non-profit Hammond Care Group, which specialises in dementia care, is expected to introduce their accredited dementia training courses to aged care staff on the Coffs Coast for the first time early this year.

The rising dementia figures are no surprise to Coffs Coast aged care providers.

The manager for Catholic Health Care Services on the North Coast, Tim Allsopp, said dementia care was one of their key strengths, with special dementia units in most of their aged care facilities, including St Augustine's and St Joseph's in Coffs Harbour.

"With the extension of community aged care packages that allow more people to stay at home, we are becoming a specialist service, with the people coming to us the more challenging cases," he said.

The dementia projection ? the first of its kind in Australia ? takes into account the nation's ageing population and improved diagnosis, but assumes no improvements in dementia treatment or prevention.

There are currently 130 trials for Alzheimer's drugs under way in Australia, with several showing promise of curing the disease or slowing its development, but are not expecteds to have much impact in the short term.

The Dementia In Australia report estimates that 80 per cent of dementia patients are aged over 75, with half of all people living in nursing homes having the condition.

Kath Brewster said there were policies and plans on dementia in place at both national and State level but success depended on how these were realised.

Mrs Brewster, the chair of the steering committee on the Coffs Coast's Future of Ageing and president of COTA NSW, said one of the health planning difficulties was that dementia patients and ordinary patients were 'not a good mix'.

The co-ordinator of the Future of Ageing, Deb Kuhn, said dementia could come with a lot of aggression and such behaviour had a huge impact on staff.



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