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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 178

(Question No. 737)


Senator Elstob asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 27 March 1984:

(1) How many people are known to suffer Alzheimers disease and related disorders.

(2) What percentage of these sufferers are accommodated in nursing homes.

(3) What assistance is available to families and self-help groups who provide care and support to people who suffer the disease.

(4) Has the current disabled persons review covered the needs of people with Alzheimers disease.

(5) What research has been funded and/or carried out by the Federal Government into the disease since 1980.

(6) Are the findings of this research available to the public; if so, in what form is this information available.


Senator Grimes —The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) No figures are available from statistical data within my Department on the number of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. (The group of disorders is commonly referred to as 'senile dementia'.)

Statistical publications from the Australian Bureau of Statistics take into account 'mental disorders' in the elderly or disabled but are not specific to Alzheimer's disease or related disorders.

The Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Society estimates that some 100, 000 people have dementia. This figure is based on work by Dr Scott Henderson, from the National Health and Medical Research Council's Social Psychiatry Research Unit and the Australian National University, and a world authority on Alzheimer's disease. Dr Henderson, in his college address 'The Coming Epidemic of Dementia' which was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (1983) 17:117-127 indicated that, on the basis of overseas studies, conservatively 5 per cent of people aged between 65 and 75 suffer from dementia, rising to 20 per cent in people aged 80 years and over.

Based on these figures, in 1982 there were 110,000 people suffering from dementia in Australia.

(2) I do not know the percentage of dementia sufferers accommodated in nursing homes. Statistics on the number of people accommodated in nursing homes who are suffering from dementia are not maintained by my Department.

The report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure (In Home or at Home: Accommodation and Home Care for the Aged, 1982', chaired by the Member for Grayndler, indicates that, from information available, between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of nursing home patients have some degree of senile brain disorder, i.e. between 22,000 and 36,500 people.

(3) No special assistance is available to sufferers of dementia or their carers . However, the full range of Commonwealth benefits and services available to all frail aged, the disabled and other disadvantaged groups is available to dementia sufferers, according to their eligibility.

(4) The terms of reference of the handicapped programs review being undertaken by the Minister for Social Security, cover the needs of physically, developmentally and psychiatrically disabled people. The needs of sufferers from Alzheimer's disease have been raised in submissions to the review.

(5) The Government supports medical research primarily through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH & MRC). Such research is funded using a peer review system which assesses the scientific merit of proposals to determine whether support is warranted. The following projects related to Alzheimer's disease have received support in the period 1980-1984.

NH & MRC Research Support for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders 1980- 1984.

1980-Savage Prof. R. D., Dept of Psychology, Murdoch University. Abnormal personality in the aged at risk pyschologically $15,983.

1981-Broe Dr G. A., Huang Dr C. Y., Department of Neurology, Lidcombe Hospital. A study of normal brain ageing in senile gait disorders, senile dementia-$19,715

Masters Dr C. L., Department of Neurological Research, University of W.A. Alzheimer's disease and related degenerations of the ageing nervous system- $39, 339

1982-Masters Dr C. L., Department of Neurological Research, University of W.A. Alzheimer's disease and related degenerations of the ageing nervous system- $46, 201

1983-Masters Dr C. L., Department of Neurological Research, University of W.A. Alzheimer's disease and related degenerations of the ageing nervous system- $67, 045

1984-Masters Dr C. L., Department of Neurological Research, University of W.A. Alzheimer's disease and related degenerations of the ageing nervous system- $70, 989

McDonald Dr B. L, Masters Dr C. L., Department of Pathology, University of W.A. Amloid and intermediate filaments in Alzheimer's and Cruetzfeldt-Jacob disease-$ 24,384

It is interesting to note that the National Health and Medical Research Council recently undertook a study to determine the extent of biomedical research into the ageing generally and has found that the present level of research in this area is neither commensurate with the national needs and capabilities, nor at a level of activity comparable with research in other areas of contemporary social significance. Accordingly, the NH and MRC is currently seeking applications from members of the research community who wish to utilise funds to conduct research in this area, some of which will no doubt relate to Alzheimer's disease.

(6) The findings of projects supported by the NH and MRC are made available to the public in a number of ways, for instance:

through scientific journals;

through national and international conferences;

by sighting grantees' reports located in the NH and MRC Secretariat, Canberra, or obtaining a copy of individual reports from the NH and MRC.