While welcoming the federal government’s “first steps” to address dementia needs, peak body Dementia Australia has urgently called for more.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said the government’s response to priorities identified in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s interim report will go some way towards meeting the shortfalls in the aged care system, but stressed further action is needed.
“The additional 10,000 home care packages are urgently needed, especially those weighted towards level 3 and level 4 packages, but there is still a 120,000 strong waiting list1 and a lack of uncertainty for all those impacted,” she said.
“With 70 per cent of the almost half a million Australians with dementia living in the community, many are on this waiting list.
“They need confidence in a system that will provide quality care to enable them to be supported to stay at home longer and be engaged and included in their communities avoiding premature entry into residential care.”
Acknowledging concerns in the report about the use of chemical restraint, the federal government said: “The royal commission has identified an overreliance on chemical restraint in aged care. Therefore, from 1 January 2020, we will also establish stronger safeguards and restrictions for the prescribing of repeat prescriptions of risperidone.”
The government included a range of other commitments it says will bring clarity and address this issue. These include additional funding, regulation and training initiatives for healthcare workers.
Dementia Australia welcomed this further clarity, including reducing the use of chemical restraint.
“While guidelines on the use of chemical restraint do exist, ensuring these are implemented is vital,” Ms McCabe said.
“There needs to be a larger commitment from all stakeholders to dementia education to eliminate the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication, and to improve the health and care outcomes for people living with dementia.
“As the prevalence of dementia increases in our community, it is critical that all aged care services and other professionals working in the sector are well-equipped and supported to provide the best possible care for Australians living with dementia.
“While the additional $10 million for training announced is welcome, more funding is needed to train the more than 360,000 people working in the aged care sector2<superscript>. Furthermore, study and career pathways must also be established to encourage people to work in the sector.
“Dementia Australia continues to call for the introduction of mandatory dementia-specific training for the aged care workforce.
“Supporting and strengthening our aged care workforce will better support Australians living with dementia, their families and carers now and for the generations to come.”
Ms McCabe said Dementia Australia looks forward to more detail about the government’s response to the report and collaborating with the government on the ongoing reform of the aged care system.
For all Dementia Australia comments and submissions to the Royal Commission, click here.