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Government urged to recognise dementia as a health priority

Alzheimers New Zealand urges the New Zealand government to follow Australia and recognise dementia as a national health priority

Alzheimers New Zealand welcomes the news that the Australian Commonwealth Government has made dementia a national health priority.

This commitment from the Australian government shows how other governments are stepping up and taking action to prepare for the inevitable rise in dementia. Alzheimers New Zealand is now urging our own government to take action and recognise dementia as the most serious health crisis to be faced this century.

The incidence of dementia is rapidly increasing worldwide. New Zealand is no exception with cases of dementia expected to double every twenty years.

Alzheimers New Zealand National Dementia Strategy establishes clear actions to better support people with dementia and their carers. The document was developed in consultation with stakeholders throughout the sector, as well as with those who face the daily challenge of living with the disease. The strategy identifies key areas needing investment including early diagnosis and management of the disease, appropriate quality services, better supports for carers who provide in-home care, and development of a skilled work-force.

Progress is being made but the success of the National Dementia Strategy hinges on the New Zealand government’s recognition of the social and economic impacts of the disease and adopting dementia as a national health priority and adequately funding the sector to prepare for the significant impact (and cost) of dementia in the future.

Alzheimers New Zealand chairman, Martin Brooks says: “Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. People can live for many years after a diagnosis of dementia, however, the care needed to support someone living with dementia can be very overwhelming for family/whanau and carers.

“Around half of all New Zealanders with dementia live with family carers, many who are providing around-the-clock care with little to no government support. Funding is needed to allow both the person with dementia and their carers to have the best quality of life possible”.

Alzheimers New Zealand asks the government to make dementia a national health priority and recognise dementia as a national crisis and to adequately fund the sector to best prepare for the significant costs in the future.

Further information

Australian Health Ministers met in Sydney on 10 August and agreed to designate dementia as the ninth National Health Priority Area, alongside other chronic disease including cancer and heart disease.

The move is expected to enhance the development of a new National Framework for Action on Dementia, which will contribute to current and future work being undertaken to tackle dementia, including the national research effort.

Australian government press release:

A report released in April by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed the incidence of dementia is exploding in line with the rapid growth in aging populations worldwide, the most profound socio-economic phenomenon of this century. The number of people living with dementia worldwide, estimated at 35.6 million in 2010, is set to nearly double every 20 years, reaching 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.

WHO Report

In New Zealand, dementia is expected to increase to epidemic proportions in the very near future due to our country’s aging population. Today there over 48,000 recorded cases of dementia, however, we expect the true figure to be significantly higher than this as only 60% of people are diagnosed, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2011.

About dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Dementia occurs as a result of physical changes in the brain which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. In New Zealand, over 43,000 people have dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (50-70%).

By 2026, 74,821 people will have dementia.

By 2050, 146,699 people will have dementia.

These numbers are growing dramatically due to an aging population combined with the fact people are living longer. Diagnosis is also being made at an increasingly younger age, sometimes in people as young as 50. There is no cure.


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