A high-tech pilot program will test new technologies to improve care for people living with dementia and to support their families and carers.
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the government would invest $5.3 million in the pilot project.
“This latest commitment will fund the trialling of technology to improve the quality of life for Australians already living with dementia, from sustaining their independence and enabling them to live in their own homes for longer, to helping families and carers to better understand dementia,” Mr Wyatt said.
“Technology will never replace the importance of the human touch of caring but we are already seeing major innovations that are improving and augmenting care.
“Bedroom technologies such as laser beams, floor sensors and trip lights that alert staff have increased safety for residents, while robots and robotic pets are helping to reduce tension among people with dementia and improving their quality of life.”
“It will also extend the capacity of the health and aged care sectors to respond to increased rates of dementia.”
Of the $5.3 million, Dementia Australia will receive initial funding of $1 million in 2018-19 to work with existing technology providers. The remaining $4.3 million will be allocated through a grants process as part of the redesigned National Dementia Support Program.
But new research from Adelaide’s Flinders University has shown most Australians have a poor understanding of dementia and its associated costs and the lack of awareness was posing significant obstacles to the best treatments.
“The research shows that the public still tends to believe dementia is a normal and non-preventable part of ageing, despite decades of public awareness campaigns about the potential for dementia prevention,” lead researcher Monica Cations said.
“People underestimate the importance of cardiovascular health and regular exercise to the prevention of dementia, even though it has been proven as the single most powerful influencer of brain health.
“We were surprised to find that dementia literacy is still so poor, given how much effort has been put into improving understanding.
“The view that dementia is a normal part of ageing with few treatment options is a demonstrated barrier to both preventive health behaviours and to help-seeking and diagnosis if symptoms emerge.”
These problems were outlined in the paper, What does the general public understand about prevention and treatment of dementia? A systematic review of population-based surveys, which was published by the online journal PlosOne.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said more than 425,000 Australians were living with dementia, a figure estimated to more than double over the next 30 years.
Dementia was the second leading cause of death of Australians, contributing to 10.6 per cent of all female deaths and 5.4 per cent of all male deaths each year, the ABS said.