SYDNEY, April 28 (Xinhua)-- Despite a promised raft of urgent changes -- mooted in the undelivered 2012 Aged Care Reforms -- Australia is failing the growing numbers of dementia sufferers across the country, with a former Australian of the year this week calling for dramatic improvements in ill-equipped and under- resourced Australian hospitals.
Speaking in Sydney at a national symposium Monday, Alzheimer's disease Australia's National President, Ita Buttrose, said the government needed to assure people with dementia, their carers and families that action would be taken.
"The 2012 Aged Care Reforms offer the promise for improvements in primary and acute care. We are looking forward to their implementation."
Today, about 330,000 Australians have dementia and each week more than 1,700 people are diagnosed with the disease.
But with an aging population and concerns over lifestyle and health habits, that figure is set to rise to 7,000 a week, or a total of one million by 2050.
According to Buttrose the Australian Government invested almost 40 million Australian dollars over five years to improve hospital care for people with dementia, as well as 41.3 million dollars to support General Practitioners (GP's) in making a more timely diagnosis of dementia.
Buttrose said urgent action is required to implement the funding and expand the scope of the Dementia Behavior Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) into hospitals and primary care.
Speaking in Sydney, Burttrose emphasized the revision of the National Action Framework on Dementia was now crucial to stave off a looming national crisis.
"The fact that the federal, state and territory health ministers have not revised the National Action Framework on Dementia since its termination in 2010 is a salutary warning that we must keep dementia on the political agenda."
Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for more than half the dementias, but with Alzheimer's disease for most patients, doctors don't know the cause.
"Improving care in hospitals is one part of Alzheimer's Australia's goal of making Australia a dementia-friendly nation that is able to provide services and support for the nearly 900, 000 Australians who will have dementia by 2050."
Former carer Wilma Robinson, has experienced first-hand the difficulty in getting satisfactory care for her mother who had dementia. "Through my experience, many hospital staff don't have the necessary knowledge to understand the needs of a person with dementia," Ms Robinson said.
"Of course, there are improvements that can be addressed by research and policy, but something as simple as compassionate care must be a priority."
Health experts here have been keen to raise awareness on ways to reduce the risk of dementia among Australia's growing risk group, including regular exercise, monitoring blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding obesity and type-2 diabetes.
Some of Australia's leading dementia researchers took part in the symposium including Brian Draper, Conjoint Professor in the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
"Hospitals are not designed to adequately address the needs of people with dementia, and as a result their treatment outcomes are worse than for people without dementia. In part this is due to potentially preventable complications," Professor Draper said.
"Simple improvements, including better consultation of families in care decisions and early identification of cognitive impairments in patients, can make a significant impact on the acute care experience for someone with dementia."
Australia, despite its image as an outdoor sport loving nation, has one of the world's fastest growing rates of obesity, firmly entrenching the exposure to Alzheimer's -- a disease related to plaque build up triggering nerve damage in the brain.
Yet even after the first gene mutations found to cause an inherited form of Alzheimer's was discovered in the 19780's, decades of studies and billions of dollars have failed to capitalize on the so-called amyloid hypothesis that saw plaque successfully removed from the brains of mice n the mid 1990's.
Another UNSW expert, Professor Perminder Sachdev said prevention should remain the focus of research.