Costly battle against awful disease

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John and Irene McGrath. Photo: Melinda Jane

This year, dementia is estimated to cost Australians a massive $14.67 billion.

And that figure is expected to skyrocket in the next 40 years, according to a report released by Alzheimer’s Australia that calls for more funding.

Irene McGrath, who cares for her husband John in their home at Werrington County, says more funding is “absolutely necessary”.

“It’s such a specialised area, it’s just not like normal care,” Ms McGrath said.

In response to the report, Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt announced that the Government had committed $200 million over five years to dementia research.

“Our clear goal is that every Australian living with dementia will have access to the same quality of care, tailored to their needs, no matter where they live or who they are,” Mr Wyatt said.

The announcement is welcomed by Ms McGrath, who feels that more training is needed, particularly in hospitals and nursing homes.

“I feel strongly about every component of dementia training,” she said.

“The nurses are wonderful, they do a wonderful job, but some of them don’t understand the aspects of dementia.”

Her husband was first diagnosed in 2013, despite having no family history of dementia.

“There are many causes that they don’t know, but for John it is the result of a brain injury,” Ms McGrath said.

“I remember the words the professor said, ‘It’s what the footballers will get’.”

When diagnosed, the couple found crucial support in local services including the Anglicare Dementia Advisory Service, which they currently rely on every week for help.

Ms McGrath said there is an increased need for dementia specific counsellors for both individuals diagnosed and their families.

“A dementia specific counsellor is able to understand more than perhaps an ordinary counsellor who may not have gone through that,” she said.

“From a carer’s point of view, as you move on the journey through the disease, the support you need from early diagnosis to as it develops through the stages grows all the time.

“It is impossible to handle on your own, it’s just one of those things.”

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