On 9 April 2013 the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, launched the first Partnership Centre on the theme of ‘Dealing with Cognitive and Related Functional Decline in Older People’. View the Media Release about this launch here.
Over five years the Centre will be jointly governed and supported to the value of $25 million by NHMRC and its partners: HammondCare (NSW), Helping Hand Aged Care (SA), Brightwater Care Group (WA) and Alzheimer’s Australia.
This Partnership Centre’s Chief Investigator, Associate Professor Susan Kurrle of Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital, will lead an Investigator Team in improving the management and treatment of people with cognitive decline, building the capacity of the aged care sector, and strengthening the support systems for carers of older people with cognitive and related functional decline.
The Theme: ‘Dealing with Cognitive and Related Functional Decline in Older People’
Forty years from now in 2050 the scale of cognitive decline and its functional sequelae will dwarf almost all other social issues facing Australia. Instead of today’s 400,000 over the age of 85 there will be 1.8 million. There will be 3.5 million Australians – nearly ten percent of the population – in need of aged services, with dementia and other forms of cognitive decline representing the lion’s share of that need. Spending on aged care will consume nearly 2% of GDP but instead of the current five workers per person over 65 generating wealth there will only be 2.7.1
While physical ailments among the elderly tend to receive the lion’s share of attention it is the burden created by cognitive decline that is the hidden time-bomb. While some of this burden falls upon formal systems of caring and state forms of support, most lands on the shoulders of spouses, peers, volunteers, charities and the like. In the most optimistic outcome we will uncover a cure and/or effective preventive strategies for the various dementias that afflict the elderly (and, tragically, some of the young). However, even with this optimistic outcome there will be many who still suffer from the inevitable decline of cognitive capacity and related functional abilities that comes with age. The focus of this Partnership Centre is, therefore, on how to better apply our existing knowledge and how to create new knowledge that will directly improve our support to those elderly suffering from cognitive decline, their carers (formal and informal) and the various agencies delivering services for them.
This Partnership Centre’s Investigator Team will engage in a range of activities to:
- improve aged care service planning (including continuity of care and risk assessments of community care);
- develop and implement new approaches to support informal carers;
- reduce stigma around cognitive decline in both the health care and community context;
- improve the size and quality of the aged care workforce;
- assist with decision making, rights, citizenship and related ethics through education;
- improve aged care regulation;
- promote responsible medication management;
- develop and disseminate up-to-date clinical guidelines; and
- implement proven models of care.
1 Data from: Productivity Commission 2011, Caring for Older Australians, Report No. 53, Final Inquiry Report, Canberra