Healthcare Series Conference

The Federal Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, MP spoke at the Healthcare Series Conference on 26 June 2017.

Page last updated: 26 June 2017

PDF printable version of Healthcare Series Conference (PDF 358 KB)

26 June 2017


Good morning.
It’s a pleasure to be here with you to talk about how the Australian Government is responding to one of our nation’s leading health concerns —dementia.

Thank you Ingrid Williams [Managing Director, Elm Aged Living] for your introduction. I appreciate the opportunity to address you today.

Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today – the Kulin Nation – and I pay my respect to their Elders, past, present and future. I extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.

I’d also like to acknowledge:

    • Maree McCabe [CEO, Alzheimer’s Australia]
    • our other distinguished speakers;
      • Kate Swaffer, for sharing with us first-hand the experiences of the consumer, and her tireless work advocating for others living with dementia;
      • Dennis Frost, for his work to make Kiama a dementia-friendly town and for speaking at the conference tomorrow to share how this was received;
      • ladies and gentlemen.
Every one of us knows how devastating dementia can be.

It can transform the lives and personalities of vibrant, active people.

As the condition progresses, it affects their ability to care for themselves.
It causes frustration, and in some cases, anger.

For those around the person concerned, it can be distressing to watch the gradual deterioration of this condition in a loved one.

Dementia is now the second most common cause of death in Australia, and there is no cure.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare predicts the number of people with the condition will rise from an estimated 365,000 today to more than 900,000 by 2050.

This is an issue that won’t go away. We need to act now.

Over 50 per cent of permanent residents currently in Australian Government-funded aged care facilities have dementia.

That’s why it’s important to make sure that those with dementia receive appropriate care.

We need to ensure that the care of those with dementia is ‘core business’ for our aged care providers.

We need to work together — government, the aged care sector, and researchers — to ensure those with the condition are appropriately supported to have the best quality of life possible.

It’s also about supporting our health and medical researchers to come up with new ways to manage the condition, and eventually — we hope — find cures and ways to prevent this condition.

It’s a challenge not only facing Australia, but the world, and innovation holds the key:
    • Innovation in research.
    • Innovation in the way we collectively approach the care and management of the condition.
    • Innovation in policy, to give those who care for those with dementia the resources they need.
Dementia Care
Initiatives in dementia risk reduction are guided by the new National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions.

The Framework moves away from a disease-specific approach and provides guidance to address risk factors; like poor diet and nutrition, physical inactivity and smoking, which evidence shows impact a person’s risk of developing dementia.

This is alongside investment in dementia prevention research which I will talk about later.

To assist those already living with the condition, the Australian Government has been working with consumers and the sector to ensure we continue to move forward on dementia care.

We’ve worked together with State and Territory Governments to create a strategic, collaborative and cost-effective response to dementia across Australia.

The National Framework for Action on Dementia 2015-2019 supports ongoing action in dementia care for governments, service providers, peak bodies and the broader community – working together to improve accessibility and ensure people don’t fall through gaps in care.

In January last year, the Government announced significant changes to dementia programs to better support people living with dementia, their families and carers.

The first phase was a single national provider for the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service for better consistency in advice, nationwide.

We also consolidated the Dementia Training Study Centres and Dementia Care Essentials into a single, nationally consistent Dementia Training Program.

The second phase involves redesigning dementia consumer supports to ensure those living with dementia — and their carers — get the support they need across the entire life-cycle of the disease, regardless of who they are or where they live.

To do this effectively, we need to listen, and ensure those with an active role in this issue are part of the conversation.

Late last year, I held a dementia forum to hear directly from consumers, carers, clinicians, and other stakeholders about their experience with dementia consumer supports — what’s working well, and what could be improved.

Those discussions made it clear that dementia consumer supports cannot be separated from the aged care, health and social services systems. That’s why we’ve extended funding to Alzheimer’s Australia for the National Dementia Support Program for 12 months to June 2018.

It will give us the time we need to work with Alzheimer’s Australia and other stakeholders in the aged care, health and social service systems.

To get the right mix of coordinated, integrated dementia consumer support services that reach those who need them most.

We have also been working with the sector, including our state and territory colleagues, to build a multi-tiered approach to dementia behaviour management support.

This innovative approach is unique in the world and allows family carers, health professionals and aged care providers to easily connect with a nationwide network of expertise when behavioural or psychological symptoms of dementia are affecting the quality of care.

Administered by Dementia Support Australia, the first tier comprises the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service.

The Service’s multi-disciplinary team provides a person-centred and holistic approach to dementia care, working closely with the individual’s primary carer and medical specialists.

The second tier provides more intensive behaviour management support.

Severe Behaviour Response Teams, which support residential aged care providers to care for those who experience severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

We’ve invested $54 million over four years in this program, which began in late 2015.

And the feedback to date has been fantastic, with a 91 per cent client satisfaction rate in its first year of operation.

Planning is also under way for the third tier of behaviour management support available to residential aged care providers – Specialist Dementia Care Units.

These units will be a further escalation point to support people who experience very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, and need more intensive support than a mainstream aged care service can provide.

Many of the people needing this level of support are currently in the acute or sub-acute care system.

Policy design for the units is being conducted in close consultation with state and territory governments, the aged care sector and clinical experts to ensure that the settings across the health and aged care systems work together to deliver the best outcomes.

Research remains our best hope of managing the health challenges of tomorrow.

Finding effective treatments for dementia — and ultimately, a cure — will ease the suffering of those with the condition, and their families, and ease the strain that management of the condition brings to our aged care system.

We invested $200 million over five years in the 2014–15 Budget in the Boosting Dementia Research initiative to enhance our research capacity.

$150 million of these funds are being used to fast-track our progress towards finding preventions, treatments and cures for dementia.

The second component of this initiative is the National Health and Medical Research Council National Institute for Dementia Research.

Its mission is to target, coordinate and translate our national research in this area to ensure the outcomes result in better care for dementia patients.

Between these two initiatives, there have been some exciting developments:
    • The Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research has discovered that the combined use of ultrasound waves, together with an antibody treatment targeting protein clumps, reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice. It’s now working on the design and development of a safe therapy for human patients.
    • The University of NSW is seeking to identify genetic factors contributing to inherited types of Alzheimer’s disease, with funding through our National Health and Medical Research Council National Institute for Dementia.
    • The same university is also looking to recruit 18,000 people for a large dementia clinical trial,which will test whether an internet coaching tool can reduce the risk of dementia.
    • The National Institute for Dementia Research has a funding pool of $10 million available to researchers to investigate better ways to meet the health care needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with dementia, while maintaining their strong connection to family and the community.
These research outcomes show much promise those who live with dementia, those who fear they may develop the condition, and the families and friends who care for them.

But until we find that elusive ‘silver bullet’, we must continue to work together to ensure we support people with dementia, their families, and the aged care workforce to provide the best services possible.

Dementia represents a significant challenge for our residential aged care centres, ensuring those with the condition — and their families — receive the very best.

They deserve nothing less.

I thank you for the opportunity to update you on the Australian Government’s efforts in this space.

I hope the presentations at today’s conference continue to inspire you.

Thank you.
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