Palliative Care for People Living with Dementia

Dementia has a profound effect on our community. In Australia, it is the leading cause of death for women and the second leading cause of death overall. Furthermore, it is the primary cause of disease burden among elderly Australians and according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) it is projected that the number of people with dementia will double in the next 30 years. Dementia Australia states that in 2022 there were an estimated 161,600 people living with Dementia in NSW and that without a medical breakthrough this is expected to increase to 345,000 people by 2058.

These are large numbers in NSW so how are we addressing the palliative care needs of those living with dementia now and into the future? This is something Dr Elissa Campbell, Geriatrician and palliative care consultant, WA Health has explored as a Churchill Fellow. Dr Campbell observed that “Dementia is a life-limiting illness, and people with dementia deserve to live their lives as well as possible, as is the goal of palliative care. Internationally, palliative care is explicitly recognised under the human right to health. Yet, people with dementia are less likely to receive palliative care than those with other diagnoses.””

“One reason that people with dementia are less likely to access palliative care, and particularly specialist palliative care, is that traditional models of palliative care that arose from the modern hospice movement were designed for people with cancer, who experienced a relatively rapid loss of function in the weeks and months prior to death. These models do not meet the needs of people with dementia, who live with their disease for years prior to death, and have a more gradual loss of function during that time.”

Dr Campbell’s Churchill Fellowship explored models of palliative care for people with dementia, with the aim of gaining knowledge of successful models of care to adapt to the Australian setting. You can now access two resources from Dr Campbells fellowship:

  • WA Department of Health Churchill Fellowship report ‘People with dementia deserve better: Exploring models of palliative care for people with dementia’, including a two-page Executive Summary, examplar models of care examples, and 12 core elements for a successful model is available to download at the Churchill Trust website:
  • A 30-minute webinar presented for WA Department of Health is available on YouTube

A version of this article was originally published by Caresearch:…