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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 April 2021) . . Page.. 989 ..

wellbeing of our older Canberrans living with dementia in a broader context and acknowledge the challenges that we face as a community and that people with dementia and their families face on a daily basis. I refer also to the success of some of the work that we have been doing in this space.

The ACT government is committed to promoting healthy ageing—a key domain of our preventive health plan released in 2019 and the basis, of course, for the age-friendly city plan. We know that by better promoting healthy ageing through improving broad environmental and socio-economic determinants of health, we can prevent the onset of common chronic diseases, including dementia.

We have been successful in this space. 2019 ABS data shows that Canberra men have a life expectancy that is close to equal with Switzerland, the longest in the world, and women are equal fourth globally. While preventive health programs are important in delivering these results, we also know that our health screening and our care services are central to maintaining people’s health and wellbeing.

Currently, more than 6,300 Canberrans are estimated to have dementia, and this is expected to triple over the coming four decades. This highlights the importance of the motion that Ms Lawder has brought forward today. We know that this is already placing pressure on our health system and our social support systems that deliver care that is designed to be safe, sensitive and calming for older Canberrans. The physical environment is an important part of that.

We know—Mrs Kikkert also talked about it—that dementia is the highest cause of disability and death for Australians over 65. For all age groups, it represented the third-leading cause for men and the leading cause for women in 2018. That is why our public health services have been adapting and expanding their services to better serve older Canberrans.

For example, every patient who is 65 years or older, following admission to Canberra Hospital, is offered a cognitive screening to assess any presentation of cognitive impairment, including delirium and dementia. This standardised practice is so important in order to intervene early. When a diagnosis is confirmed, our cognitive impairment policy is used for further investigations and follow-up as well. This is supported by a range of experts in the division of geriatrics, who run weekly memory assessment service clinics, and, of course, our fantastic allied health staff.

Throughout last year’s election campaign, and front and centre in our investments in the 2020-21 budget, we committed to delivering care closer to home, which we know is so important in keeping people out of hospital. We also know that, where possible, this keeps people in familiar environments and supported by family and friends, helping their healing, and being even more important for people who are experiencing dementia.

I know, from some of the experiences that have been relayed to me by people whose family members with dementia have had to be admitted to hospital, either at Canberra Hospital or Calvary, how distressing that can be.

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