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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6251

Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (11:06): On Friday last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Eurobodalla aged care and dementia networking group to talk about aged-care packages and dementia in general. While I have asked them to send quick summary emails regarding their primary concerns, asking me to present these to the minister, there were some recurring themes. Due to the media hype and the lack of real care from those in opposition, there has been a bit of confusion about age-care packages and what they actually mean for people, and some concern about the waiting list. On budget day the government announced that thousands of new home care packages would be on offer. I understand this means the number of home care packages will rise from 87,000 to 151,000. That is a vast improvement.

There is great community interest in the $200 million the Turnbull government has invested in the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative. In this third year of the plan, we know there are a series of potentially world-leading Australian projects now underway to combat dementia. It's amazing that 127 projects, involving 285 researchers working across 24 universities and research institutions, are presenting major milestones towards dementia prevention, management and cure. Dementia is the second most common cause of death in this country, and for women it has eclipsed heart disease as the leading cause. Around 425,000 Australians are living with the condition, with an estimated 1,700 people believed to be developing dementia each week. It is critical that we find effective preventions and cures; otherwise, we can expect 1.1 million Australians to have dementia by the middle of this century, meaning more than 600 people a day will be at risk of developing the disease.

Some of the advances in our groundbreaking research include the promise of ultrasound technology to improve memory and slow the onset of dementia; determining if increased iron levels in the brain are the missing link in the development of dementia; the impact of childhood stress as a dementia risk factor, especially among Indigenous Australians; the potential for eye scans to reveal three biomarkers associated with early signs of cognitive decline; harnessing the power of music to assist people in managing and living with dementia, which I imagine would be extremely beneficial; and specialised staff training, including massage, music and reminiscence therapies, to improve dementia care, as many of the elderly with dementia slip into their original cultural background, particularly those from another nation.

The $5.3 million pilot program aimed at improving aged care for people living with dementia, through an emphasis on applying innovation, is indeed a great initiative, and community groups all around are looking forward to the rollout of this program. Statistics show that dementia in particular affects three in 10 people over the age of 85 and almost one in 10 people over the age of 65. Kiama Municipal Council, in conjunction with Dementia Australia and research done by the UOW, developed a great model of awareness and community engagement around the needs and solution pathways for those suffering from dementia in their community. The network in Eurobodalla wishes to start having discussions on the strategies to introduce just such a program. Today I've sent contact details to make sure that that network combines with Kiama so they can start.

Last week, the Eurobodalla dementia network committee presented a number of ideas to me, and I would like to take this opportunity to put some on the table. We'd love to have a pilot program to develop a beyond-65s hub; to examine the potential of financial pathways; to maximise ACAT time and reduce paperwork compliance; to assist the work done by the ACAT and RAS, which is the Regional Assessment Service team; to better determine ways forward and to develop a better pathway for not only people ready to receive aged-care packages but also their carers. As we explored these ideas, we discussed that some form of identifier number could be introduced so that the provider could help access information. Many of the dementia clients about to go onto packages forget their number, and often, when the information is sent to them, they don't understand the material and then lose it or ignore it, so we need to get something to help the providers.

Under our reforms, all home care packages are provided to individual consumers rather than the previous method where home care packages were awarded to approved providers under an allocation process. This change gives older Australians the ability to choose their own provider and direct the government subsidy to that provider. They can change that provider if they wish, including if they move to another state or a different region. These reforms allow such organisations as the Eurobodalla dementia network committee and the Kiama Municipal Council to meet with us, give feedback and take their ideas forward so there are better services for people who are ready for aged care, who need in-home care packages or who need better care as they journey through dementia.