A new discussion paper that looks at dementia related issues in Australia has called on the government for additional funding to help those living with the condition.
It says that additional quality respite care and counselling services will be needed to successfully support the estimated 400,000 people in the country living with dementia.
The paper, conducted by Alzheimer’s Australia, states that these additional respite services will allow those to remain at home for longer, thus avoiding an early and often unwanted entry into residential care.
These services will also allow carers a greater ability to care for their loved ones themselves, while also allowing the option of day respite and overnight respite during any difficult times that a carer may be unavailable.
Alongside this prompted change, the discussion paper makes a number of other key recommendations for how best to support Australia’s dementia population.
Among these proposals include funding for a pilot program of telephone based support groups who are specially trained to help those with dementia.
It is believed these support groups would be especially helpful for those with dementia living in rural areas, where accessing help in person at short notice may prove difficult at times.
Impact on relationships
The paper also recommends further research on the impact of dementia on relationships. It is believed a greater knowledge of this will help improve the overall implementation of specific and specialised support services.
The final key point of the paper calls for residential care homes to do more to help people with dementia maintain relationships with their carers.
It notes that relationships often weaken as someone moves into residential care, so allowing carers to work alongside staff to organise time alone with their loved one is a much-needed change.
Advocates for support
At the head of these proposed changes is Alzheimer’s Australia NSW’s CEO, John Watkins. He says more needs to be done to help those with dementia because family relationships are already difficult, and living with dementia only makes managing relationships harder.
“Dementia impacts on the roles people hold within the family,” Mr Watkins said.
“If a person with dementia was the provider and decision-maker, or if responsibilities were shared, that role is then taken on solely by their spouse or children.
“Not only does the person living with dementia lose their independence, but the roles of their partner or children will also change.”
Mr Watkins also stated that family relationships can often cause roles to shift when a member of the family has dementia.
He notes that many children end up becoming carers for their parents if they develop dementia, and while this can have benefits, it can also cause undue stress and cause feelings of grief due to the natural close connection between the two.
“Dementia has a significant impact on an individual’s identity within the relationship, which inevitably affects a person’s feeling of worth and sense of self,” Mr Watkins said.