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Australia is spending big on dementia research

SOURCE: Cristian Newman/Unsplash
Without a medical breakthrough, there will be 1.1 million dementia sufferers in Australia by 2058.

Australia is pouring millions of dollars into researching solutions on dementia, recognising the increasing urgency to improve aged care as the country joins a growing list of developed nations with ageing populations.

According to recent estimates, Australia’s population of elderly will reach 8.8 million by 2057, making up 22 percent of the total population. By 2097, this number will rise to 12.8 million people and 25 percent of the population.

An ageing nation brings with it a whole raft of challenges and changes to the national economy. For one thing, the country’s aged care industry will need to be prepared for an increase in the demand for better quality care and number of providers.

Research says without a medical breakthrough, by 2058, over 1.1 million Australians will be suffering from dementia, today the nation’s second-highest killer.

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In an effort to get ahead of the impending problem, the government this week bumped up federal spend on dementia research by AU$21 million, to be used on 13 projects focussed on risk reduction, prevention and tracking of the disease. Of the 13, an Australian-first project will be harnessing electronic record data to look at the prevalence of dementia across the country.

With the additional funding, the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Boosting Dementia Research Grant Scheme is now at a record AU$200 million.

“We applaud the injection of funding into dementia research, that will lead to better outcomes for people of all ages, living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers,” said Dementia Australia Chief Executive Maree McCabe in an article on Aged Care Guide.

“Investment into research that focuses on risk reduction and prevention is fundamental if we are to reduce the sharply increasing prevalence of dementia. These projects will make real progress in understanding dementia and benefit generations of Australians to come.”

She said that with better data on dementia, the industry could better build its capacity to deal with the predicted rise in the number of dementia sufferers.

“It is paramount that dementia continues to be a focus through the National Institute of Dementia Research and the Medical Research Future Fund within the broad parameters of the health, ageing and aged care,” she added.

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The aged care industry needs to be prepared for the increase in the country’s population of elderly folk. Source: Sk/Unsplash

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government would remain committed to improving dementia care and would continue to fund its research.

“We’re committed to ensuring Australians of all ages have access to the support they need to face life’s challenges,” he said in The West Australian.

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Among the recipients of funding support is Monash University. Working in partnership with public healthcare provider Peninsula Health, the university currently has two dementia research projects at the National Centre for Healthy Ageing that will receive a share of the funds.

According to Aged Care Guide, university researchers have received an AU$600,000 grant to conduct a data-driven study in the Peninsula region in Victoria which, if successful, will be implemented nationwide. Using electronic data, the study will be developing ways to monitor the prevalence of the disease to help improve management and treatment.

The second Monash project will receive AU$2 million to prevent and reduce risk of dementia in 45-65-year-olds. The project is being carried out across New South Wales and Victoria, and aims to develop an individualised health promotion programme that will cover “self-management training, practical behaviour change techniques and General Practitioner coordinated interdisciplinary management of dementia risk factors.”

Other funding recipients include the University of Melbourne; University of New South Wales, Swinburne University of Technology, University of South Australia, University of Sydney, The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, University of Queensland and James Cook University.