Valley dementia cases tipped to rise, support to slump

THE rate of dementia sufferers in the Clarence Valley is expected to more than double before 2050 with support for families of sufferers in considerable doubt.

Alzheimer's Australia has predicted the rates of the degenerative condition to sky rocket over the next two decades but is concerned government support for the condition will decrease with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

"A major concern we have is revolving around our Key Worker Program and its ability to support the rising number of young onset dementia sufferers," Alzheimer's Australia NSW programs manager Sally O'Loughlin said.

"With the introduction of the NDIS our Key Worker Program will be incorporated but not in the sense that it is now.

"The restructuring by the Federal Government appears to focus solely on the person with the disease and forgets the people around them.

"This is of great concern for early-onset dementia sufferers who are diagnosed younger than 65 years old and still have dependent family members.

"These sufferers could have children who still rely on them, or they could be a bread winner, but their families do not understand the experiences or conditions of the sufferer," Ms O'Loughlin said.

"The Key Worker Program was set up to give one-on-one support for both the sufferer and those affected, but that could change."

Three per cent of Clarence Valley residents have dementia with Alzheimer's Australia predicting a doubling before 2050.

For early-onset dementia sufferers the prediction is even more dire with the number of cases expected to rise by more than 1000 within the next five years, and almost triple before 2050.

"These increases are putting a major stress on local and national economies when you take into account there will be a greater need for appropriately trained care staff, and hospital staff and a better informed public," Ms O'Loughlin said.

"Official estimations have said that dementia is costing Australia close to $6 billion in health care and lost productivity each year, and that will only increase."

For early-onset dementia sufferers the condition is a scarier prospect than it is for elderly sufferers.

"Younger people tend to progress even faster in terms of degeneration of the condition," Ms O'Loughlin said.

"A person with a diagnosis at a younger age will die faster than someone who is diagnosed later in life."

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