With more than a million Australians predicted to be diagnosed with dementia by 2050, Western Sydney University is developing a region-first multidisciplinary Memory Clinic to help provide early diagnosis and local solutions for families affected by the debilitating condition.
Based at Macarthur in South West Sydney, a region predicted to experience up to 460 per cent rise in dementia over the next generation, the Clinic will serve as a hub for dementia research, education and coordinated care for outpatients.
"Dementia is expecting to cost the government $14.6 billion in 2017, rising to an extraordinary $36.8 billion by 2056," says Dr Genevieve Steiner, NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow, NICM.
"If we can reduce dementia hospitalisations by just 10 per cent, it will save the country around $30 million in hospital costs per year, not to mention the much more significant broader economic benefits. Hospitalisations are just one small example of how the Memory Clinic can change the face of dementia, and improve the lives of people living with dementia and their families."
Dr Steiner says providing local solutions are the key to reducing the burden of the expected dementia epidemic.
"Currently, local models of dementia care are largely reactive and crisis-driven, and the coordination between hospital and community-based services is highly fragmented," she says.
"Unfortunately, Western Sydney, like much of Australia, lacks the facilities for those seeking effective early treatment, meaning patients face the prospect of deteriorating health while they can be waiting years for a diagnosis."
"This can be avoided for people with early signs of dementia and their families, as providing a fast diagnosis is the key to implementing strategies that can slow down the progress of dementia."
The proposed Memory Clinic will offer an integrated model of care with specialised assessment of cognitive problems, supported diagnosis, coordinated care, and strong links to community-based services and primary healthcare.
In addition, the Memory Clinic will provide a platform for research and education for the next generation of medical, nursing and allied health professionals, trained at the University.
"Together with partners, Western Sydney University is developing a novel, innovative, and cost-effective solution for dementia that could one day provide a template for other services into the future," Dr Steiner says.