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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7233

Mr GEORGANAS (HindmarshSecond Deputy Speaker) (16:30): I thank my colleagues on both sides of the House for ensuring that changes were made so that people could speak on this particular report. I would also like to acknowledge: the deputy chair of the health and ageing committee who worked on this report, the member for Swan; the chair of the committee, who was here a moment ago; and the other members of the committee—the member for Hasluck and the member for Bass. They have all been members of the committee and contributed to this report.

It gives me great pleasure to speak about this report on the early diagnosis of and intervention on dementia, titled Thinking ahead. This report is relevant to all of Australia but particularly in my electorate as one of the oldest in the country, with almost 20 per cent of people over the age of 65. It has one of the highest rates of people diagnosed with dementia in the country. I have heard countless tales from families and constituents of my electorate firsthand about the devastation it can cause in our community. We on the inquiry when we travelled to most major cities and all around the country also heard firsthand from different communities about dementia and the devastation it can cause.

This inquiry and report before us make it quite clear that there needs to be greater awareness of dementia and that more action towards a dementia-friendly future needs to be taken. We know that one of the most important things that we can do to combat severe dementia is ensure that patients are diagnosed in a timely manner. With early detection the quality of life for people with dementia as well as for their family and carers is often dramatically increased. We heard this during the inquiry. People, for example, when diagnosed in a timely manner can put their affairs in place and work out the future because they still have the capacity to do so. With early detection the quality of life of people with dementia as well as their families and carers, as I said, is often dramatically increased. It gives families that opportunity to make plans and arrangements for the future, something that we can all appreciate is incredibly difficult for all involved.

As elegantly stated by the chair of the committee, the member for Shortland, a very effective way to promote early diagnosis is to promote greater awareness of dementia. This is so very true and so very important. We heard this evidence and had this advice given to us at every stage of the inquiry—that early diagnosis is so important. An effective way to promote early diagnosis is to promote greater awareness of dementia. If we do this, we can ensure that friends and relatives recognise those very early signs. This will help to promote a dementia-friendly society.

We heard that when people see those early signs and talk to their GPs very often it is just brushed aside as 'getting older' and that as you get older you forget things. But these are signs and we need to ensure that GPs and other people in health services are well aware of the early signs. A dementia-friendly community involves taking an holistic approach to care, support and treatment. It is all about, as I said, educating not just GPs but the health industry, the community sector and support groups so as to enable them to better care for people with dementia and provide assistance to their carers. It is all about ensuring that the community continues to value Australians with dementia as well. One of the greatest barriers to improving outcomes for patients remains that stigma that is still attached and that many feel when discussing dementia with their families and friends. In fact, we heard evidence that even GPs associate with that stigma and will sometimes just brush symptoms aside as someone getting older or forgetful, without really looking deeper into the symptoms that patients present with. That means that many people do not seek early treatment from health professionals and end up with outcomes much worse than if they had.

Another common barrier is that many people still believe that dementia is just a natural part of the ageing process. As a result, they do not discuss their dementia with their doctor, their family or their friends. Vice versa, their family and friends do not discuss it with them or with other health professionals since they do not believe anything can be done to delay the onset or to slow the progression of this disease.

In its report, the committee has also called for a national awareness campaign aimed at dispelling the myths about dementia, ensuring that people recognise the symptoms of dementia and encouraging people experiencing those symptoms to seek a full assessment. There are assessments which can be done to determine whether someone is suffering from signs of early onset dementia. If we can achieve this timely diagnosis of dementia and provide people with the necessary tools, skills, treatment and support, we will go a long way towards improving the quality of life for many older Australians.

During the inquiry, we travelled to different parts of the nation. At one point the committee visited a place called Norman House in my electorate of Hindmarsh. Norman House is a day care centre for people who suffer from dementia.

Ms Hall: A fantastic facility!

Mr GEORGANAS: It is a fantastic facility. It is at the cutting edge and is one of the best facilities I have seen. It helps people to continue within a community group while giving their families the respite they require. We saw their activities—people meeting, cooking, eating and drinking in a normal household environment.

I was also lucky enough, a few months ago whilst we were still conducting the inquiry, to be invited by ECH to open Seasiders in Laidlaw Street, Henley Beach, which is also in my electorate. Seasiders is another great facility catering for people who have early onset dementia. It provides everything from physiotherapy to community activities in which families can participate. We saw many of these facilities around the country. One that comes to mind was in the member for Shortland's electorate.

Ms Hall: East Lake Macquarie Dementia Service.

Mr GEORGANAS: Yes, that is right—East Lake Macquarie Dementia Service. We conducted a public hearing of the inquiry at that facility as part of our visit there.

The number of Australians with dementia will quadruple by 2050. That will be a large number of Australians with this disease. This inquiry has made recommendations which should be implemented by governments—both current and future governments—to ensure we have in place the facilities and services we need to deal with the growing number of people with dementia. I commend this report to the House.