dementia

Paying for Dementia Care: Financial Support Available in Australia

My Aged Care’s Home Care Packages (HCP) are one of the ways that older Australians can access affordable care services to get some help at home. Here’s everything you need to know about it!

by Emma Hall

Dementia is a debilitating condition that affects a person’s cognitive function and often leaves them requiring high levels of care. For many people, paying for this care—either at home or in an aged care facility—can be daunting. Additionally, people living with dementia require access to doctors, medication, and personal supplies. However, there are ways to access help for paying for dementia care. Government assistance and subsidies are designed to make dementia care more affordable for all Australians. 

Cost of Dementia in Australia 

In 2016, Alzheimer’s Australia commissioned a report titled The Economic Cost of Dementia. The report shows that the economic impact of dementia in Australia is enormous: $14.25 billion in 2016, or $35,550 per person with dementia. It is believed that this number has continued to rise in the last five years.

A lot of the cost of dementia is taken on by individuals and their family members. Although loved ones do a large amount of unpaid caring work, many people will also use paid services—such as in-home care, aged care facilities, and more—to assist in looking after the person living with dementia. 

How Much Can You Expect to Pay for Dementia Care?

Dementia does not simply affect a person’s memory. The condition impacts many aspects of a person’s life, including their ability to navigate around the home, their mobility and their personal relationships. Some of the challenges faced by people living with dementia include issues with hygiene and toileting, eating and nutrition, managing money, and being safe in the home and the community. All of these can result in requiring care.

The amount that is required to care for a person living with dementia can depend on a variety of factors, including the progression of the disease, their living arrangements, and any comorbidities or other health conditions. 

In the earlier stages of the condition, people living with dementia may be able to comfortably stay at home and receive only occasional care from a visiting carer and from loved ones. However, as the disease progresses, many people will find they need more and more help around the house.

Some people diagnosed with dementia will still be living with their spouse or partner. This person may be able to take on a lot of the caring responsibilities themselves. In other cases, the person may move in with another family member or friend. It can be ideal in the early stages of the disease for a person living with dementia to stay in a familiar and comfortable environment with people that they know, and to receive assistance from a mix of loved ones and professionals. But if they are living alone, they will likely require carers to come to them or they may need to move into an aged care facility. When the disease progresses, more intensive in-home assistance and higher levels of care may be required.

Finally, the cost of dementia can be affected by any other health conditions that the person living with dementia is experiencing. For example, a person may have mobility issues caused by arthritis, or poor bone health caused by Parkinson’s. These additional challenges may affect the complexity of the person’s needs and the amount of care they require.

Cost of In-Home Care 

For many people living with dementia, in-home care is the best option. It allows them to remain in a safe, familiar and comfortable environment. Dementia causes confusion and can make it difficult for people to navigate new spaces, so staying in their own home—or the home of a loved one—is ideal.

When a loved one has dementia, many people will want to take on a large part of the caregiving role themselves. Caregiving is extremely rewarding, but it can also be tiring and it is a big commitment, especially in the later stages of dementia. Help at home allows you to share the burden and allow someone else to provide high quality care so you can focus on maintaining a healthy and loving relationship with the person living with dementia.

There are multiple types of in-home dementia care available. You can access assistance for home care services , nursing and medical escort services, whenever the need arises. 

Home care gives you access to trained caregivers who can assist with a variety of everyday tasks, including bathing, toileting, eating, getting dressed and more. Additionally, a regular caregiver can provide companionship and offer a calming presence to a person living with dementia. Daily living care by local support workers at Homage starts at $55 an hour. 

Home nursing involves a licensed nurse visiting the person living with dementia and providing medical assistance, preventing the need for a difficult visit to the doctor or hospital. This can be especially important if the person living with dementia has comorbidities that they require care for, such as injections, wound care, or medication administration. Specialised nursing care from the comfort of home starts at $100 an hour.

Medical escort services take the stress and hassle out of taking your loved one to the doctor or a specialist appointment. Missed medical appointments can cause more long-term problems, but a professional transport service ensures that the person living with dementia can be supported through the travel and appointment process. Patient transport services with Homage start at $55 an hour.

Cost of Adult Day Care Centres 

Adult day care centres are designed to support people living with dementia and other older Australians. They offer a care solution for people who may be supported at home overnight but require some assistance during the day or people who are socially isolated. Typically, adult day care centres provide care, meals, and activities for people who attend. They range from highly medically supported with several health staff on site, to more focused on social and recreational services. 

Adult day care can be a great option for people living with dementia whose primary carers need a break or to work during the day. They provide multiple benefits, including social interaction, enjoyable and stimulating activities, and appropriate physical exercise. All of these can delay cognitive decline and slow the progression of dementia. 

Many adult day care centres in Australia will require a referral from My Aged Care. Sometimes, a referral from a GP or a social worker will also be needed to get a spot in the centre. 

The cost of adult day care varies widely depending on state, provider, and the level of care provided. More affordable options are available through charities and council-run services. Most people living with dementia will also qualify for government assistance. 

Cost of Aged Care Facilities for Dementia Patients 

Although many people are able to stay at home and receive in-home care or attend adult day care (or a mix of both), some people living with dementia will have complex needs. In these cases, it may be best for them to move into an aged care home where they can receive 24-hour a day assistance and have all of their needs taken care of. Residential aged care provides accommodation, meals, activities, personal care and nursing services to people living with dementia. It can be an adjustment for many people when they move into aged care for the first time; however, aged care is a good option for people who require comprehensive care. 

The cost of aged care facilities for people living with dementia can vary considerably. How much a person pays for aged care depends on their financial situation, the services they require, and where they live in Australia. Some of the costs associated with aged care include a basic daily fee for care, accommodation costs (or the cost of the room and essential services), and fees for additional services. 

The Australian Government sets a maximum amount for daily fees and accommodation costs. Once you reach these caps, your care provider cannot ask you to pay any more care fees.

Medication

Most people living with dementia will be prescribed medication to treat the cognitive symptoms, and possibly other medication to treat other symptoms such as psychological and behavioural issues.

In Australia, the common medicines used to treat the symptoms of dementia are heavily subsidised by the government through the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme. This means that although some of these medications are quite expensive, people living with dementia only need to pay a fraction of the cost. A 2016 study by Dementia Australia found that the average cost to people with dementia was $7.35 per prescription. 

Doctors’ appointments

People living with dementia require ongoing healthcare. Although a GP can diagnose dementia, typically they will involve specialists including geriatricians, psychiatrists and neuropsychologists. 

The cost of healthcare from these kind of specialists will vary according to the type of care needed, whether it takes place in a hospital or a clinic, and whether the person living with dementia has private health insurance. It is possible to keep costs down by seeing a geriatrician that offers a bulk billing service. If you see a specialist in a public hospital, Medicare covers all costs and you won’t be left with any out of pocket expenses.

Personal care and at home supplies

There are many products available to make life easier and safer for people living with dementia. Some of the many items a person living with dementia may require include:

  • Wearable alarms 
  • Bathroom aids 
  • Incontinence pads and liners
  • Orientation signs
  • Cupboard and drawer temporary locks
  • Power point protectors
  • Medication dispensers

All of these items are affordable and can be bought from specialty stores or online.

Safety upgrades in homes

It is vital that people living with dementia who remain in their own home have a safe and easy-to-navigate environment. Some of the additions that can be installed include shower rails, automatic-shut-off appliances, automatic lights, and safety switches. Any dangerous things in the home, such as radiator heaters, should be removed and replaced. Most of these modifications can be made by any tradesperson and will cost less than $1000. 

Support Available to Help With the Cost of Dementia Care in Australia 

Although aged care—and in particular the more complex care needed for people living with dementia—can be expensive, there is support available.

For medical costs, it is important to remember that the public health system is designed to support people regardless of income or financial circumstances. Although some medical care will result in expenses, such as seeing specialist doctors, finding bulk billed services wherever possible can help to keep costs under control.

For caring costs, including in-home care, respite care, adult day care centres and residential aged care, there are also ways to make these services more affordable. If your loved one is living with dementia and you want them to access professional care, it is a good idea to first get an ACAT (or aged care) assessment.

An ACAT assessment is required for anyone who wants to access government subsidised care services. It is completed by healthcare professionals and social workers, who work closely with the person living with dementia and their loved ones to determine the level of care they may need.

The ACAT assessment is used to determine the condition of their health, their memory and cognitive function, and the current level of support they are receiving. From there, the assessors gather this information and provide a recommendation of the level of service that the person living with dementia is approved for. The person living with dementia, along with their loved ones, can decide if they want to access the services recommended.

Additionally, before going into aged care, a person living with dementia will typically receive an income and means assessment to determine their financial situation and how much they can contribute to their own care costs. For people who do not have large financial resources (for example, they may not own their home), additional assistance is available.

The complex care needs of people living with dementia can be expensive, but there is financial help available. Using support services and finding out more information about how to access government assistance will help to keep the cost of dementia care under control and ensure that your loved one receives the required care.

References
  1. Alzheimer’s Australia. (2017, February). Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia. https://www.dementia.org.au/sites/default/files/NATIONAL/documents/The-economic-cost-of-dementia-in-Australia-2016-to-2056.pdf
  2. Dementia Australia. (2019, August). Medication Use by People Living with Dementia. https://www.dementia.org.au/sites/default/files/media/Medication%20use%20by%20people%20living%20with%20dementia.pdf
  3. Drug treatments & dementia. (2020). Dementia Australia. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.dementia.org.au/national/about-dementia/how-is-dementia-treated/drug-treatments-and-dementia
  4. Help Guide. (2021, July 15). Adult Day Care Services. HelpGuide.Org. Retrieved October 18, 2012, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/senior-housing/adult-day-care-services.htm
  5. Referral options for diagnosis. (2020). Dementia Australia. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.dementia.org.au/information/for-health-professionals/clinical-resources/referral-options-for-diagnosis
  6. What does a geriatrician do? (2020). Health Direct. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/what-does-a-geriatrician-do
About the Writer
Emma Hall
Emma Hall is a professional writer with experience in healthcare and wellness. She loves to write clear and helpful articles about health, fitness and more. Emma lives in Melbourne and loves coffee, running, and her pet dog Bernie.
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