Longer hospital stays, higher care costs for people with dementia

People with dementia stay longer in hospital and have higher associated costs of care, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Dementia care in hospitals: costs and strategies, was launched today by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, the President of Alzheimer's Australia, Ita Buttrose, and AIHW Director and CEO David Kalisch.

The report estimates the cost of caring for people with dementia in New South Wales public hospitals, and presents strategies and practices being implemented in Australia and internationally, that might improve the quality and cost efficiency of dementia care in hospitals.

The average cost of hospital care for people with dementia is generally higher than for people without dementia ($7,720 compared with $5,010 per episode).

The total costs of care in NSW public hospitals for patients who had dementia was estimated to be $462.9 million, of which around 35% ($162.5 million) may be associated with dementia.

'Providing care to people with dementia within a busy hospital ward can be challenging due to difficulties in communication and their often complex needs,' said AIHW Director and CEO David Kalisch.

The study population used for the report included 21,000 people with dementia who had a completed hospital stay including at least one night in a NSW public hospital in 2006-07.

'Identification and reporting of dementia is often poor in hospitals. For almost half of the episodes for people with dementia in this study, dementia was not recorded as either a principal or additional diagnosis,' Mr Kalisch said.

Several strategies are highlighted in the report that could improve outcomes for people with dementia and reduce care costs.

'Our review suggests that the greatest potential benefits to patients lie in a combined approach by hospital, mental health, residential aged care and community services,' Mr Kalisch said.

'For example, simple measures taken in the hospital setting that appear to reduce length of stay for dementia patients and improve outcomes include staff training, discharge planning, dementia-friendly ward adaptations, and mental health and ageing liaison services.'

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 14 March 2013

Further information: Nigel Harding, tel. 02 6244 1025 / mob. 0409 307 671

Elizabeth Ingram, tel. 02 6249 5048 / mob. 0431 871 337