More than 20 thousand young Australians with early-onset dementia will fall through the cracks in the Federal Government’s $10 billion National Disability Scheme (NDIS) expected to roll-out this week.
With the Government’s commitment, the only program dedicated to helping young Australians with early-onset dementia – the Younger Onset Dementia (YOD) Program will not be able to cope with the growing number of people under 65 years with dementia.
By 2050 it is projected that an additional 36,000 people will require support for early-onset dementia.
Alzheimer’s Australia Queensland CEO Victoria Beedle said the YOD program will be rolled into the NDIS from July next year but it is uncertain how many young people will get support.
“Our unique program needs to be expanded because there are still people in Queensland not getting the critical help they need,” Ms Beedle said.
“In Queensland alone there are specifically now at least 8,435 people under the age of 65 with dementia which is referred to as younger onset dementia,” she said.
“There are 242 cases of dementia being diagnosed every single day and it is costing the Australian economy $6 billion in healthcare and a lost productivity.”
Ms Beedle said with dementia being the third leading cause of death in Australia, younger people need a specialised service because they do not fit into the aged care system or disability sector.
“By 2020 the figure will have jumped to 9,020 young people with dementia, revealing unequivocally that dementia is not just an older person’s disease,” Ms Beedle said.
“The pioneering Younger Onset Dementia Program was only established in 2013, after years of demands for a specialised program to help people.”
“It is acknowledged a staggering one in 13 people with dementia are now aged under 65 and a number of these people are actually in their 30’s and 40’s.”
While Australia works on a medical breakthrough for such a complex condition, expert in dementia care and behaviour management Professor Wendy Moyle said support services are still not readily available for people with young onset dementia.
“People with young onset dementia are usually working and they are in the prime of their life so it can be particularly challenging having a diagnosis of dementia at this young age,” Professor Moyle said.
“There is controversy as to whether dementia should be called a disability,” she said.
“Aged care is a place for older people, not an appropriate venue for people with young onset dementia.”
Professor Moyle says although Dementia is a chronic condition that gets progressively worse overtime and there are things we can do to prevent it.
“To prevent your chances of getting dementia you should exercise each day to keep the body fit, only drink a maximum of half a glass of red wine a day as binge drinking will destroy brain cells,” Professor Moyle said.
“Maintain a healthy diet to keep the body in a healthy weight range and to reduce your chance of getting type two diabetes, which can increase your chance of getting dementia.”
“It’s important to protect the head from knocks from contact sport or accident and keep social activity going as it stimulates the brain especially with friendship activities which can protect you from depression and dementia.”
Chris Ronto is familiar with the condition after his father was diagnosed with dementia and suffered a painful death.
“He started losing his marbles but his wife just tolerated it until she put him in a hospital years later,” Mr Ronto said.
“The doctor said his dementia was alcohol induced.”
“He was always very active as a young man, he worked as a builder and was always on the job but in the last 15 years of his life he didn’t do much at all.”
“His social group got smaller and he stopped playing bowls.”
If you or someone you know needs help or information about dementia please call the national dementia helpline on 1800 100 500 or visit www.fightdementia.org.au