Dementia

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (15:24): Dementia remains one of the biggest global public health challenges facing this generation and, whilst dementia may affect us at any age, its prevalence certainly increases later in life, meaning that the rapid ageing of our population is leading to an equally rapid increase in the number of people with dementia. Dementia is already the second leading cause of death in Australia, and there is no cure.

More than 350,000 Australians have dementia, and this number is projected to reach more than half a million by 2030. Closer to home, 30,000 South Australians are living with dementia. It is expected that this number will increase by one-third, to 40,000 in less than 10 years. There are almost more than 100,000 South Australians involved in caring for a person with dementia.

Often people associate dementia with memory changes and fail to understand how it can affect behaviours, communication, relationships and the ability to undertake everyday tasks. Unfortunately, too many people living with dementia suffer social isolation and a sense of embarrassment. People with dementia are just that, people with dementia. An important element of a tolerant and welcoming society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. People with dementia deserve to live with meaning and purpose, and we all have a role to play in ensuring that they do.

In November, I am hosting a dementia-friendly community forum in my electorate in what I hope will be the first step in fostering an environment where local residents living with dementia can remain engaged within society and contribute in a meaningful and supported way. Alzheimer's Australia SA CEO Kathryn Quintel is the lead speaker, and I would like to thank her for her support. The concept of dementia-friendly communities is a simple one. It is about improving community understanding of those living with dementia and developing ways to promote social inclusion to ensure that they continue to enjoy quality of life. I strongly encourage all members of parliament to have their offices support the dementia-friendly campaign.

The growth of dementia-friendly communities will provide enormous social and economic benefits, including savings to state and federal health budgets. Alzheimer's Australia estimates that the cost of dementia to the health and aged-care system is at least $4.9 billion per annum. Supporting people living with dementia to live more independently and actually within their communities will reduce dependency on the aged-care system and acute care, and, indeed, help alleviate some budgetary pressures.

Perhaps if the state government focused a little more on preventive initiatives and a little less on shiny new buildings—which at the moment sees our hospital network looking like Tetris—we might see some better outcomes in this matter as well. I would like to encourage all my colleagues to become a parliamentary dementia champion. I signed up last year and will again be co-hosting the dementia champions' morning tea with the member for Fisher on 2 November. I encourage all members available to attend.

It is inspiring to look at what communities around the globe are doing to make positive changes to assist people living with dementia. In the United Kingdom, dedicated dementia-friendly bank tellers have been set up, and this pilot has been a great success. Still in the UK, in Plymouth a local bus company has helped design special cards to go with tickets so that bus drivers know what stop a person with dementia needs to get off at, and in the Netherlands a dementia-focused living centre called De Hogeweyk (aka Dementia Village) is revolutionising the relationship between patients and their care.

From the outside, the dementia village appears like a closed community, with gates and security fences, but inside it is its own self-contained world with restaurants, cafes, a supermarket, gardens, a pedestrian boulevard and much more. The concept is simple: it is to create an environment that resembles normal life as much as possible for people suffering with dementia. This is so that residents can participate in life in the same way they did before they entered the dementia care unit. Basic routines and rituals such as visiting the hairdresser, buying groceries and eating out at restaurants can help residents maintain a better quality of life. The security perimeter means patients can move about as they wish without being a danger to themselves.

Initiatives such as these serve as a model for South Australia, but we must all lift our game. We should be at the forefront of innovative thinking and design, creating positive environments that facilitate wellbeing, not just for people with dementia but for all seniors.