"An advisory service, costing $54 million over four years, as a replacement for more than $100 million per annum of funded services goes nowhere near meeting the dementia crisis in residential aged care," says Bruce Mildenhall, chair of Doutta Galla Aged Services.
In July 2014, the federal government abolished a dementia funding supplement, claiming a budget blowout. “With a week’s notice, more than $800 000 dollars was ripped out of our budget," says Mr Mildenhall.
Earling this month, the federal government revealed a $54.5 million initiative to support people experiencing the severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD).
The new approach, announced by Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Mitch Fifield, will see the creation of ‘flying teams’ of clinical experts to advise aged care providers on the management of severe BPSD, such as agitation, aggression, delusions and hallucinations. Up to a quarter of all people with dementia will experience these debilitating and frightening symptoms at some time.
“There are already Dementia Behaviour Management Services which would welcome additional support, however we need funded services to implement the recommended strategies,” says Mr Mildenhall.
“This latest announcement shows the federal government is no serious about an issue that it claims to be one of the top ten health issues facing Australia," he adds.
Alzheimer’s Australia estimates 1,800 new cases of dementia diagnosed per week. By 2050, that figure is expected to grow to 7,400 new cases per week. Of Doutta Galla’s 500 aged care residents, more than 60% are affected by dementia - more than 35% are severely affected.
“A new advisory service is a token effort,” says Mr Mildenhall. “We and other providers need to provide specialist programs and other services that are shown to be highly effective.”
He calls on the federal government to "get serious" about the issue and return funding to aged care providers to provide programs geared towards the needs of people living with dementia.
“As well, capacity building of staff is key to providing the best care for aged care residents with severe BPSD,” Mr Mildenhall says.
“Specific dementia program initiatives and socially and emotionally supportive programs are also essential. Senator Fifield’s initiative is an ad-hoc measure that does not meet the community’s needs," he says.
Doutta Galla Aged Services urges the federal government to review the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) model. Mr Mildenhall will be part of a delegation in Canberra next month, where he will directly communicate with key decision makers the importance of taking the needs of vulnerable Australians seriously.