Family carers key to tackling dementia crisis

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Two key reports published this week have highlighted the growing epidemic of dementia in Australia and worldwide.

Professor Wendy Moyle and Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer from Griffith University’s Research Centre for Clinical and Community Practice Innovation are looking for 1500 family and spousal carers across the country to take part in an in-depth survey of their experience.

“More than 35 million people worldwide have dementia, more than a quarter of a million of these in Australia,” Dr O’Dwyer (pictured) said.

A report published by Alzheimer’s Disease International estimated that dementia is currently costing more than $600 billion worldwide. A report by Alzheimer’s Australia highlighted the importance of supporting family and friends who care for people with dementia at home.

“Caring for a person with dementia is more challenging than caring for a person with a physical disability, as a result of the additional cognitive and behavioural problems,” Dr O’Dwyer said.

“Many carers are putting their own physical and mental health at risk in order to support the person with dementia.

“Without adequate support – both practical and financial – many family carers may not be able to continue providing vital care and support for people with dementia. Without them, the demand for aged care and the cost of dementia on the health system could skyrocket.

“Research on carer wellbeing is one step towards better understanding and supporting the needs of carers.”

Dr O’Dwyer and Professor Moyle will focus on the physical and emotional wellbeing of carers. They are presently recruiting around the country for the survey.

“We want to better understand the factors that contribute to poor health in carers, as well as those factors which lead to resilience and enable carers to ‘bounce back’ despite serious challenges.

“If we can understand what it is that separates carers who are coping well from those who are really struggling, we might be able to provide more targeted information and support services.”

More than 70 percent of community-dwelling people with dementia are cared for by a family member or spouse. They typically provide round-the-clock care, many for years on end. They are often tired, stressed, and struggling with their own physical health problems.

“We hope this research will promote community awareness of dementia and the amazing work done by carers,” Professor Moyle said.

“We also expect that it will inform the development of better programs and policies to support vulnerable carers.”

Dr O’Dwyer is funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre (Carers and Consumers).

Carers who would like to participate in the research can contact Dr O’Dwyer on (07) 3735 6619 or [email protected]

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