19 Jun 2013

More expected to live alone with dementia: report

6:27 am on 19 June 2013

The number of people living alone with dementia in Australia is expected to grow, putting them at risk of malnutrition, falls and accidents.

A discussion paper issued by Alzheimer's Australia NSW says the federal government must prepare for the number of people suffering from dementia to reach 400,000 by 2020.

Living Alone With Dementia states about two million people now live in single person households in Australia, a figure that has more than doubled from 11% of households in 1961 to 25% in 2011.

Alzheimer's Australia NSW chief executive John Watkins the majority of people with dementia prefer to stay at home for as long as possible, and have the right to do so for as long as it's safe.

But research shows that people living alone with dementia have a higher risk of economic insecurity and abuse, loneliness and depression, he said.

They also have poorer health due to self-neglect, and are vulnerable to malnutrition, falls, accidents and hygiene problems.

"There is often an underlying assumption in dementia and aged care policy that there is a spouse, relative or friend who lives with and cares for the person, and this is reflected in the way services are delivered," Mr Watkins said in a statement on Wedesday.

"People living alone with dementia tend to slip through the cracks."

AAP reports the discussion paper recommends the federal government fund community services to respond to the individual support requirements of people living alone with dementia.

It also calls on the government to fund education for workers who have contact with people living with dementia, such as GPs, chemists, bank tellers and retail staff.

It suggests the NSW government invest in volunteering schemes, and asks that local councils ensure the safety of people living alone with dementia is addressed through the creation of dementia-friendly environments and neighbourhoods.

IRT, a seniors lifestyle group, said it was inevitable the number of people living alone with dementia would increase.

"We need to start planning for a future where more and more people with dementia will live alone in their own homes, and that is where they will require support," said chief executive Nieves Murray.