A re-elected Turnbull Government announced today $11.4 million will be prioritised towards assistance for people living with dementia and their local communities.

Announcing a new dual-approach to caring for Australia’s estimated 350,000 people living with dementia, the Coalition will target $7.5 million to establish Specialist Dementia Care Units.

A Specialist Dementia Care Unit provides one-on-one care for people who experience very severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia and are unable to be supported in a mainstream aged care service.

This may include someone with a high level of mobility and more likely to put themselves or someone else in danger. It could also involve someone showing very severe and persistent behaviour, very severe depression, noisy outbursts, a lack of inhibition, unpredictable moods and possible suicidal tendencies.

A Specialist Dementia Care Unit provides care for people who require more support than can be provided through Severe Behaviour Response Teams or existing residential care services.

Location of the units will be based on demographic and geographic needs, with some regions likely to require access to more than one unit. The makeup of the units will be developed in consultation with the aged care sector and dementia experts.

A key priority is to ensure people living with dementia in rural and remote locations will have access to a unit, particularly in areas which currently cannot access specialist support services.

Specialist Dementia Care units will be rolled out over the next four years across Australia’s

31 Primary Health Network regions.

We will also target $3.9m directed to help ordinary Australians better understand dementia.

Many of us have little understanding of dementia and are unsure of how best to respond to people who are living with the disease. This funding will go towards building ‘Dementia Friendly Communities’.

It will create local programs which engage community resources to raise awareness about dementia within the local community, as well as improving access to opportunities for social engagement for people with dementia along with their carers.

The aim is to help people with dementia remain respected citizens in their local community, to be better supported by people living with and around them, and living independently for as long as possible.

In all communities around our country locals can play a very important role in supporting people living with dementia.

Further background

The Coalition Government introduced the concept of Ministerial Dementia Forums in 2014.

These Forums are designed to seek the advice and input of a wide range of stakeholders, to then inform government policy and decision making on the treatment and assistance required for people living with dementia.

From these came the idea for both Dementia Care Units and Severe Behaviour Response Teams.

Severe Behaviour Response Teams (Commonwealth funded for $54.5m over the next four years)

are a mobile workforce of clinical experts supporting aged care providers to manage residents with severe or extreme dementia behaviour and psychological symptoms.

‘Dementia Friendly Communities’ have already been successfully implemented in the UK and Japan and this commitment will enable introduction of this initiative in Australia.

Experience from pilot programmes in Australia suggest there is significant community and business goodwill that can be leveraged to better support people with dementia.

‘Communities’ will be able to offer dementia education sessions to interested members of the public, businesses and other organisations.

Today’s announcement redirects existing funding budgeted within the Health and Ageing portfolio.