In just under 40 years time, it is estimated more than a million Australians will be impacted by dementia. So what's the plan?
Early intervention, standardised referral, diagnostic and referral pathways, and giving primary care professionals the information and expertise needed to play a major role in their patients' care.
These are some of the recommendations of a think tank of nearly 40 people from government, primary and specialty care, nursing, patient and carer advocacy, professional and allied health associations.
The Future for Alzheimer's disease in Australia White Paper highlights the complicated clinical pathway, non-standardised diagnostic mechanisms, inadequate workforce resourcing and under-utilised educational opportunities impacting those living with Alzheimer's disease and those who care for them.
"As clinicians, researchers and care providers, we are at the precipice of an exciting, yet daunting journey to optimise care for Australians living with Alzheimer's disease," said Associate Professor Michael Woodward from the Austin Health Memory Clinic in Victoria.
"The potential future arrival of disease-modifying therapies brings us to a critical juncture in this journey, compelling us to come together to effect purposeful, sustainable and beneficial change."
The white paper identifies a number of solutions, including:
- Improvements in case findings to support early diagnosis
- Clarity and structure on diagnostic pathways
- Establishing infrastructure and skills to help deliver treatment options
- Growing awareness and understanding of the importance of brain health
- Determining the role of primary care
- Establishing system-wide collaboration and integration.
The white paper says primary care is well-positioned to play a central role in diagnosis and management of dementia patients.
It recommends the possibility of specific aged care primary practices be explored and that the government look at financial support needed to better support primary care practitioners to play a role in cognitive assessments and dementia care.
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Standardised referral, diagnostic and support pathways are also recommended.
"The think tank highlighted work that is already underway across the system to address some of these areas, but we must do more," said general practitioner and dementia specialist Professor Dimity Pond.
"Combining our experience, expertise and resources we have the chance to ensure our system is fit-for-purpose and well-prepared for what lies ahead of us."
An expert committee, the Brain Health Collective, will now be developed to continue to champion the recommendations outlined in the white paper.
View the full report HERE