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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1272 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

The Alzheimers Association has advised me that they would welcome a four-bedroom home and staffing to provide respite for the carers of these 1,700 plus people that they are looking after. In other words, it would give the carers of these people a break from what is often a very arduous task. The intention of this home is not to look after people with serious dementia. Those people need to be properly looked after in a formal setting-obviously in a nursing home or a similar sort of facility. Such a facility would primarily give people who are looking after sufferers of early dementia a chance to have a break of a week or perhaps a little longer.

Unfortunately, people even with early dementia still require 24-hour care. Therefore, the house would obviously need to be staffed for that period. I am advised that one staff member would be required in the morning, one in the afternoon, and certainly one overnight. Also, because of something called the sundown syndrome, which apparently causes numbers of dementia patients to decide it is time to get the dinner-and they can become a little difficult to handle-two staff would be required between 4 pm and 8 pm.

The estimated cost of this, apart from the provision of the house itself, is about $200,000. Coincidentally, $200,000 is what Mr Michael Moore, the previous minister for health, is quoted as saying would be the annual cost of some individual packages for people with disabilities. So what we are looking at is $200,000 to run a house, and this is the amount normally spent annually on some people with disabilities. I do not make that point as a criticism-I simply make it to give a comparison of costs and the benefits that clearly would accrue to carers in circumstances such as this.

I believe, Mr Speaker, that this is not an unreasonable request. The cost, as I say, is relatively small. It would certainly ease the burden on a great many people out there in the community who, in an unsung fashion, are working quietly and looking after their loved ones and perhaps others. Frankly, I believe that we have a responsibility in this respect. If we are providing respite facilities for other carers in the community, the least we can do is provide these facilities for the 1,700 plus sufferers of dementia in the ACT community who are being looked after by private individuals. I commend the motion to the house.

MS DUNDAS (10.45): I move:

Omit paragraphs (1) and (2) and substitute:

"(1) That the A.C.T. Government investigate the level and nature of any unmet need for respite care for people with dementia, including a specific facility for low-level dementia sufferers, and options for responding to any such unmet need.

(2) That the Government report to the Assembly as soon as is practicable after considering these issues."

The Australian Democrats believe that respite care is very important for those with dementia and their carers. While very often care in the home is the best option and allows people to remain with those they know and love, government services need to be in place to ensure that this approach is sustainable for all involved.

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