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UC report shows 20-year snapshot of Alzheimer’s impact

Danielle Meddemmen

11 February 2022: Staggering new research from the University of Canberra’s National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) has found that cases of Alzheimer’s disease are estimated to nearly double in Australia by 2041, and cost the national economy $26.6 billion annually.

Commissioned by Biogen Australia The Economic and Societal Cost of Alzheimer's Disease in Australia, 2021-2041, led by the University’s Emeritus Professor Laurie Brown forecasts the 20-year impacts of the disease on the Australian economy, workforce and community.

“The modelling paints a significant challenge to government, health and aged care systems into the future,” Professor Brown said.

“The numbers also provide insight into the ripple effect on families and the community as they struggle to care for people living with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Building on NATSEM and Dementia Australia’s 2017 report Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056, the recent research shows an annual cost of $26.6 billion by 2041 split between direct costs in aged care, hospital and out of hospital services ($9.8 billion), and indirect costs such as informal care, lost productivity and income support ($16.8 billion).

The research also shows the number of people with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease in residential aged care is expected to grow from 42,478 persons in 2021 to 73,172 in 2041 – an increase of 72 per cent.

“This is a huge challenge for an aged care system already under pressure,” Professor Brown said.

“This will see financial impacts rising by almost $3.6 billion annually and requiring an additional paid workforce of 7,900 formal carers to support those living with Alzheimer’s disease in the community.”

The number of informal carers – partners, other family members or friends - is expected to have to grow from 94,193 carers in 2021 to 163,261 by 2041.

Geriatrician and Head of Aged Care Research at Austin Health, Associate Professor Michael Woodward AM said the latest research effectively represented the societal impacts of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The impact I see on carers and the community each day is often the most challenging to quantify,” he said.

“However, with an expected additional 80,000 plus people with Alzheimer’s disease in the community by 2041 compared with today, we can’t afford not to consider this impact in any future approach.”

The report also investigated the potential impact of a disease modifying therapy, aimed at delaying the onset or progression of dementia on the number of Australians expected to have Alzheimer’s disease over the next 20 years and its associated costs.

With fewer people having moderate or severe AD dementia, the DMT is expected to reduce the cost of residential care by $7.0bn over the 20 years 2021-2041, the cost of formal care in the community by $880 million, and the cost of informal care by a further $4.3 billion.

The report mirrors the findings of the recent White Paper on the Future of Alzheimer's disease in Australia, revealing the need for urgent collaboration in the healthcare system to manage the ongoing impacts of the disease.