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Minister makes it clear at conference: dementia is a national focus

A global gathering focusing on tackling the ongoing and growing issue of dementia has proven the perfect setting for the Australian Government to announce both a brand new nationwide initiative as well as a new report on early outcomes for another.

“Australia is now a world leader in many aspects of dementia research,” Minister Wyatt says. [Source: HammondCare Twitter]
“Australia is now a world leader in many aspects of dementia research,” Minister Wyatt says. [Source: HammondCare Twitter]

Federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt spoke at the 2018 International Dementia Conference in Sydney, hosted by aged care provider HammondCare, taking the opportunity to address the crowd of more than 1000 delegates from more than 15 countries with the new announcements.

Minister Wyatt officially launched the Report on Early Outcomes for the government’s $200 million five year Boosting Dementia Research Initiative, which is now three years in.

His announcement of the report revealed a series of potentially world-leading Australian projects now underway to combat dementia, including 127 projects involving 285 researchers, working across 24 universities and research institutions, which all promise major milestones towards dementia prevention, management and cures.

“Australia is now a world leader in many aspects of dementia research,” Minister Wyatt says.

“Dementia is the second most common cause of death in this country and for women it has eclipsed heart disease, to become the leading cause.

“It is critical we find effective preventions and cures, otherwise we can expect 1.1 million Australians to have dementia by the middle of this century, meaning more than 600 people a day will be at risk of developing the disease.”

The report highlights:

  • The promise of ultrasound technology to improve memory and slow the onset of dementia, by helping clear the toxic amyloid protein from the brain

  • Research targeting whether increased brain iron levels are the ‘missing link’ in the development of dementia

  • The impact of childhood stress as a dementia risk factor, especially among Aboriginal Australians

  • The potential for eye scans to reveal three biomarkers associated with early signs of cognitive decline

  • Improved diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia, one of the most common forms of the disease

  • Harnessing the power of music to assist people in managing and living with dementia

  • Specialised staff training including massage, music and reminiscence therapies, to improve dementia care

Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, also backed the report stating in the foreword that:

“A long-term approach to the diagnosis and treatment of dementia—informed by targeted, collaborative research— is essential for Australia’s social and economic wellbeing, and on an individual basis to help people reduce risk and delay progression of dementia and to improve quality of life for people living with dementia,” he says.

“I am pleased to see the promising early outcomes and progress made possible through the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative.”

Minister Wyatt also took to the conference stage to announce a new $5.3 million pilot program aimed at improving aged care for people living with dementia, through an emphasis on applying innovation.

“Dementia particularly affects people as they age, with three in 10 people over the age of 85  and almost one in 10 people over 65 having the condition,” he explains.

“This investment will foster further development of technological solutions to help people living with dementia, as well as their families and carers.

“Dementia-focused care technology is in its infancy and there is much untapped potential for it to be developed to help people with the condition to live at home for longer.”

Event organisers HammondCare have shared their support of the government’s announcements, welcoming the new initiatives that are “boosting Australia’s world-class research leading the dementia fight”.

The Boosting Dementia Research Initiative report is available online

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