Dementia deaths in Australia have steadily increased over recent years. In 2013, dementia became Australia’s second leading cause of death, overtaking cerebrovascular diseases (strokes) for the first time.
“The Australian population is ageing fast, and we can expect a 300% increase in the numbers of dementia patients in the next 30 years. Once a person has lost their capacity, it is too late for them to create the necessary legal documents to validly appoint trusted agents to assist them with their legal & financial affairs.”
In 2014 and 2015 the number of dementia deaths have continued to rise.
Ischaemic heart disease has been the leading cause of death in Australia since early in the 20th century, but while the rate of death from heart disease was at its worst around 1970, it has steadily declined since then.
Dementia is not one specific disease. There are many types, including Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia, which are each collections of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain, with severe effects on thinking, behaviour and quality of life. These diseases add greatly to the burden of illness and injury in the Australian community.
Deaths from dementia mostly occur because of complicating factors, such as immobility, incontinence, instability, malnutrition and impaired immune function. Sufferers can become frail, have breathing difficulties, and develop infections, all of which can lead to death. In cause of death terms, dementia is the condition that initiates these symptoms and therefore dementia is considered to be the underlying cause of death.
Memory and cognitive deficits can be profound, and these diseases tend to be progressive, meaning that they worsen over time. Treatments are developing all the time, and medical science is keeping us alive for longer than ever before, so the Australian population is ageing fast.
Dementia is predicted to affect 400 000 Australians by the year 2020. Dementia already affects about 10% of those aged over 65 years, and 20% of those over 80 years suffer from severe dementia. Frighteningly, Alzheimer’s Australia says we can expect a 300% increase in the numbers of dementia patients in the next 30 years.
Once a person has lost their capacity, it is too late for them to create the necessary legal documents to validly appoint trusted agents to assist them with their legal & financial affairs. Just like insurance – you cannot apply for insurance after the disaster has occurred. You MUST have the necessary protection mechanisms in place before you need them – otherwise it will be too late.
Many elderly people need to have the assistance and care of a trusted family member. This becomes far more convenient and powerful if the trusted agent has been granted the appropriate legal authority to make decisions and sign documents on behalf of the principal.
If you or someone you know is getting along in years – even if they don’t yet need assistance – consider whether they have in place a modern integrated estate plan, with at the very least a Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advance Care Directive. These documents are essential for every adult, but if you wait too long, it could be too late.
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