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, speech, cognition (thought), behaviour, mobility and an individual’s personality, and their health and functional ability decline as the disease progresses.
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.
The latest information on dementia
For the latest information on dementia see the Dementia in Australia online report, which provides information on:
- Understanding dementia, including how dementia is diagnosed, risk factors, types of dementia and available care and support services
- Population health impacts of dementia, including prevalence, deaths and burden of disease
- Carers and care needs of people with dementia
- Health services used by people with dementia, including GP and specialist services, prescriptions for dementia-specific medications and hospital care
- Aged care and support services used by people with dementia
- Dementia in priority groups, including among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, veterans, people with intellectual disabilities and the LGBTIQ+ community
- Health and aged care expenditure on dementia
- Behaviours and psychological symptoms of dementia
- National policy response to dementia.
The online report also presents five Australian stories about living with dementia and/or caring for a loved one with dementia.
The Dementia in Australia report was launched in Dementia Action Week 2021 by the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services and Minister for Sport, Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck. View the minister's message.
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 underway includes developing a national dementia data improvement plan, assessing performance measures for the National Dementia Action Plan (currently in development), undertaking a national survey to assess the populations’ knowledge and awareness of dementia and using linked data to examine 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 and Aged Care.
Need more information?
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:
- Dementia Australia website
- The Dementia Guide by Dementia Australia
- National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500 (a free and confidential service to discuss dementia and memory loss concerns for yourself or others).
- Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service: 1800 699 799 (if needing help to manage behaviour associated with dementia)
- My Aged Care website (for information on, and applying for access to government-subsidised aged care services).
Dementia in Australia
See the Dementia in Australia online report for the latest statistics on dementia
Dementia-specific medication was less likely to be dispensed to people living in remote or lower socioeconomic areas
Specialist attendance rates were lower among people living with dementia in remote or lower socioeconomic areas
1 in 4 people with dementia who were living in the community moved into aged care after a hospital stay
People who moved into aged care after their hospital stay spent 20-days longer in hospital than other older people
The aim is to deliver better data to improve outcomes for people with dementia and their carers
Goal 2: National dementia data available and reported regularly in key monitoring areas