The country’s peak body for psychologists says 50% of Australians with early stage dementia are not getting access to the treatment they need, and investment is needed to address the rapidly growing public health issue.
APS President Ros Knight said the APS was calling on Government during Dementia Action Week to increase its focus on clients with dementia.
“Our blueprint for psychological services within Medicare, the June 2019 APS White Paper, calls on Government to introduce a number of key changes to ensure clients, including those with dementia, are receiving the assessments and care they need.
“This includes the introduction of assessments to differentiate dementia from mental health disorders, which would go a long way to ensuring Australians with dementia are put on the right intervention pathway and can access and afford the services they need,” she said.
Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr Amy Scholes, Chair of the APS College of Clinical Neuropsychologists said the introduction of a neurocognitive disorder/dementia assessment Medicare item, and a decision making/competency assessment item would improve diagnosis and care drastically.
“Under the current system, clients can only access cognitive screens provided by medical professionals who are covered by Medicare. Unfortunately these screening tools miss 50% of early dementia diagnoses, which is unacceptable.
“In contrast, thorough neuropsychological assessment can identify early stages of dementia with a 90% accuracy rate.
“The comprehensive assessment process conducted by a neuropsychologist enables consideration of neurological, medical and psychological possibilities, giving us a more detailed understanding of the individual client, thereby improving client-centred care.
“Thoroughly delineating each clients’ cognitive strengths and difficulties, as well as interacting psychological factors, is critical for providing correctly targeted interventions and care models that truly understand the individual’s specific needs, and minimise risk,” she said.
Dr Scholes said better assessment and treatment would have countless benefits for clients with dementia and their families, who are often distressed and vulnerable.
“Early, accurate diagnosis reduces client and family distress, provides timely access to appropriate care, and reduces the unnecessary hospital admissions or doctor visits that can happen when a client remains undiagnosed but symptomatic and/or worried.
“Clients with dementia and their families are desperate for earlier diagnosis because the distress of not knowing, misdiagnosis and delays in appropriate care are adding to their psychological burden and negatively impacting on the client’s outcomes.
“Dementia is a fast growing public health issue and our community is crying out for better access to appropriate services and care,” she said.
Dementia Action Week takes place from 16 – 22 September 2019
World Alzheimer’s Day takes place on Saturday 21 September 2019