Almost 95,000 dementia-related hospital admissions in 2016-17

There were almost 95,000 hospitalisations of people with dementia and $20 million spent on anti-dementia medications in 2016-17, according to two new reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Dementia is a major cause of ill health and death in Australia, affecting up to 436,000 Australians in 2018 and causing more than 13,700 deaths in 2017.

The first report, Hospital care for people with dementia 2016-17, found there were 94,800 admissions to hospital of people with at least 1 diagnosis of dementia.

‘9 in 10 (92%) hospitalisations involved at least one overnight stay, with an average length of stay of 13 days,’ said AIHW spokesperson Richard Juckes.

Dementia was recorded as the principal diagnosis in about 1 in 5 (22%) hospitalisations, for the other 78% of hospitalisations, dementia was recorded as an additional diagnosis.

Most patients hospitalised with dementia had an average of eight additional health conditions, commonly related to the urinary system (42%) and type 2 diabetes (24%). 

‘Where dementia was an additional diagnosis, the most common principal diagnosis was related to injury (21%), and more than 1 in 3 (36%) of these were for a leg fracture.’

Dementia is a term used to describe a group of conditions characterised by the gradual impairment of brain function. There are many different forms of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common.

‘1 in 3 (33%) hospitalisations were for unspecified dementia and 1 in 4 (27%) were for Alzheimer’s disease’, said Mr Juckes.

1 in 2 (48%) hospitalisations ended with the patient going home, about 1 in 3 (29%) with the patient continuing care in hospital, about 1 in 5 (17%) ended in a new admission to residential aged care and 6% ended with the patient dying in hospital.

The AIHW also released Dispensing patterns for anti-dementia medications 2016-17, which examines dispensing patterns for 4 anti-dementia medications and the associated costs to people and the Government.

‘These 4 prescription medications were dispensed a total of 546,000 times in 2016-17, at a cost of $20 million’, said Mr Juckes

Medications are used to reduce the severity and progression of cognitive and behavioural symptoms in order to improve quality of life for people living with dementia.

“Donepezil accounted for 65% of all anti-dementia medications dispensed, followed by Galantamine (15%), Rivastigmine (12%) and Memantine (8%),’ said Mr Juckes.

‘About 80% of anti-dementia medications were prescribed by general practitioners and 42% by other medical specialists because people could be prescribed by more than 1 prescriber.’

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