Grim dementia stats highlight the need for urgent action to fix aged care 

22 September 2021

The soaring numbers of people living with dementia in Australia only underscores the need for greater skills mix, enhanced staff-patient ratios and more Registered Nurses 24/7 in aged care homes.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Final Report delivered in February found that half the people living in nursing homes have dementia, yet "we are deeply concerned that so many aged care providers do not seem to have the skills and capacity required to care adequately for people living with dementia".

This week is Dementia Action Week (September 20-26), with the number of Australians living with dementia, the second leading cause of death in the country, continuing to rise, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

According to data, dementia was responsible for 14,700 deaths in 2019, accounting for 9.5% of all deaths during that year. It was the second leading cause of death behind coronary heart disease, and the leading cause of death among women (around 9,200 deaths).

Estimates regarding the number of Australians currently living with dementia typically range from 386,200 to 472,000. Under the AIHW’s estimate of 386,200, the number of Australians living with dementia is expected to more than double to 849,300 by 2058 given Australia’s rapidly ageing population.

The anticipated impact on aged care is frightening to comprehend, particularly in light of a report that Australia is facing a shortage of at least 110,000 direct aged-care workers within the next decade unless urgent action is taken to boost the workforce.

“Retaining and attracting staff is crucial, hence the ANMF (SA Branch)’s aged care campaign calling for substantial wage increases for all aged care workers, one of the poorest paid cohorts in the country, and improved working conditions,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

“Improved working conditions can be achieved through mandated staffing ratios - minimum staffing levels and skills mix - and Registered Nurses onsite at every facility for every shift.’’

New research by Dementia Australia also reveals more than two thirds of people living with dementia expect to face some form of discrimination.

“The impact of discrimination in this mix can be devastating,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“When people require aged care services and are drawing to the end of their life they require high-quality nursing clinical assessment and care. Currently there is no legislation for appropriate staffing and skills mix requirements including a registered nurse being present on a residential site 24 hours per day. That simply must change.’’

This year’s Dementia Action Week theme, ‘A little support makes a big difference’, challenges Australians to increase their understanding about dementia and consider how they can take practical steps to make a difference to people impacted by dementia and help eliminate discrimination.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said research showed people living with dementia and their carers experience discrimination that can lead to social isolation, loneliness and poor mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, she added.

“We need to change this experience for people impacted by dementia,” Ms McCabe said.

“The good news is a little support does make a big difference and there are small actions we can all take to make a change for the better.”

As part of Dementia Action Week 2021, Dementia Australia is sharing simple and practical tips to encourage all Australians to increase their understanding of dementia and learn how they can make a difference. These include:

  • Give a little support to a person living with dementia
  • Give a little support to a carer, friend or family member of a person living with dementia
  • Support health care professionals to make their practice more dementia-friendly.

For more information visit to learn how to be part of the change.
To join the ANMF (SA Branch)’s aged care campaign visit and help us urge the Morrison Government to act now to improve the lives of aged care residents and workers alike.