Dementia is a significant and growing health and aged care issue in Australia that has a substantial impact on the health and quality of life of people with the condition, as well as for their family and friends.
Dementia is a term used to describe a group of similar conditions characterised by gradual impairment of brain function. Changes due to the condition may affect memory but also speech, cognition (thought), behaviour, mobility and an individual’s personality, and their health and functional ability decline as the disease progresses. Having multiple types of dementia at once is common and is referred to as ‘mixed dementia’. Other main types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia. Dementia is also associated with other conditions (such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Down syndrome), prolonged substance abuse and severe brain injuries.
Dementia is a progressively fatal condition. As dementia progresses and a person’s care needs become greater, carers provide essential support to people with dementia in almost all aspects of their daily living. Family and friends provide a substantial amount of care for people with dementia who live in the community, as well as those who are living in permanent residential aged care facilities.
Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, and the number of Australians living with dementia is projected to increase with more Australians living to older ages.
There are a number of lifestyle factors which may increase your risk of developing dementia (such as physical inactivity, obesity in mid-life, excessive alcohol consumption, social isolation, and tobacco smoking) as well as some health conditions. As there is currently no known cure for dementia, managing these risks at a population level is the best way to prevent and manage dementia. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, there are also 4 medications (Donepezil, Galantamine, Rivastigmine, and Memantine) available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS; for war veterans and their dependants) that may help to manage symptoms and slow dementia progression.
This page presents reports and statistics that are specifically focused on dementia, but additional information on dementia can be found under Aged care, Older people and Palliative care services.
For the latest information on dementia see the Dementia in Australia online report, which provides information on:
The online report also presents 5 Australian stories about living with dementia and/or caring for a loved one with dementia.
The newly established AIHW National Centre for Monitoring Dementia aims to monitor dementia and undertake work to address existing data gaps and inform specific policy needs in relation to dementia in Australia.
Work already underway includes projects on younger onset dementia, mental health of people with dementia and the health and aged care interface for people with dementia.
The AIHW National Centre for Monitoring Dementia is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health.
If you require more information about dementia, want to know where to seek help if dementia is suspected or want to find out about available support services refer to:
We'd love to know any feedback that you have about the AIHW website, its contents or reports.
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