Call for PM to join dementia challenge

A leading Australian medical professor has called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to join the UK’s Dementia Challenge to ‘deliver major improvements in dementia care and research by 2015’.

HammondCare’s Professor Rod MacLeod, speaking to the Parliamentary Friends End of Life Care group, said optimal palliative care for people with dementia was just one of a range of major issues confronting Australia’s health and aged care services.

Prof MacLeod said there was an urgent need for Mr Abbott to champion a plan similar to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Dementia Challenge which aims to: drive improvements in health and care, create dementia friendly communities and foster better research.

“I think Tony Abbott could make a powerful contribution by emphasising the human elements of the Dementia Challenge and strengthening the palliative care component of dementia care,” Prof MacLeod said.

“The fact that I am making this call, as a Palliative Care Professor, shows the depth and complexity of the challenges faced as we seek to provide dignified care for people with dementia,” he said.

“More than ever before our palliative care services are called on to care for people with dementia in their last days. At the same time, our aged care services are facing the major challenge of knowing how to provide good end-of-life care.

“A clear and comprehensive commitment such as is seen in the UK’s Dementia Challenge would help bring these and many other pressing needs into focus and help ensure we are not overwhelmed by the care needs we are facing.”

Dementia and advanced care planning

Prof MacLeod told the Friends group that specialist palliative care was increasingly involved with the care of people with dementia who often may have a symptom burden similar to people with cancer.

“They also clearly have significant psychological and social needs and quite likely spiritual challenges as well.”

Prof MacLeod said a community discussion was needed around how to avoid unnecessary, burdensome or futile treatment.

“Treatment may be started in emergency rooms by relatively junior people. The problem is that it’s often easier to start a treatment than to stop it.

“Advance care planning is the key – both ensuring that planning occurs and is followed at the critical moment.”