Dementia incidence in Australia is expected to increase by 90% and affect more than 760,000 people over the next 20 years, placing it at the forefront of Australia’s aged care problem.

While the Government has clearly signalled its intent to keep people in their home longer through reforms to aged care funding mechanisms favouring lower cost Home Care packages, the rise in dementia will ensure residential aged care remains just as relevant and costly.

While allowing people to age in their homes is a more sustainable solution to Australia’s aged care needs, it also increases the burden on families and service providers – to get involved in decision-making and find solutions that work for those who are mentally incapacitated.

The primary challenge with rising dementia incidence is the cost burden for government. Care for dementia sufferer’s costs 53.1% more than care for other residents in residential aged care – or an additional $7,740 per year.

Further exacerbating the problem, the cost of care rises exponentially as dementia symptoms and the condition deteriorates, usually resulting in a need for 24/7 care and assistance.

A recent report from Alzheimer’s Australia suggests aged care costs for dementia currently sit at $3.3 billion and are expected to balloon to $8.3 billion by 2051.

Importantly, these figures do not include medical costs, only the costs associated with aged care, and also discount future research that reduces the costs burden which some may consider generous.

However dementia is not just a ticking time bomb for government – it also puts the spotlight on financial planning and the need to put financial and legal plans in place early that allow clients to express their wishes for future care.

Planners need to broach the reality with clients that as people are living longer, the number of people with dementia is increasing and planning for what might happen if you were to lose the capacity to make your own decisions is critical.

By taking a more holistic approach to the planning needs of their elderly clients, planners can ensure that family members are on the same page in the event that an elderly parent develops dementia or another debilitating illness, and that the intentions are clearly articulated to all those involved in the often-emotional decision-making process around aged care requirements.

With the rising incidence in dementia comes an increased need for investment in Australia’s aged care workforce. There is already a substantial shortage of skilled aged care workers, particularly in remote communities.

Australia appears to have no clear strategy to either reduce dementia incidence or onset, or find appropriate and reasonable funding models that take into account the fact that many people may be willing, yet unable, to age in their home.

The funding of aged care and initiatives in place to address Australia’s ageing population appear to inadequately address the key structural needs of dementia sufferers and their families.