ON CALL: Dr Megan Ollington, clinical nurse consultant Ryan Lindenmayer and Dr Li Na Sam outside the Ipswich Hospital's emergency department.
ON CALL: Dr Megan Ollington, clinical nurse consultant Ryan Lindenmayer and Dr Li Na Sam outside the Ipswich Hospital's emergency department. Cordell Richardson

Rise in dementia deaths makes elderly patients a 'priority'

WITH AN aging population and rates of dementia on the rise to become one of Australia's biggest killers, programs are being put in place to better treat the oldest members of our community.

The population of the West Moreton region has grown 36 per cent over the past decade, with almost half of this growth in people aged 65 and older.

Dementia was the leading cause of death for women last year and the second leading cause of all deaths across the country according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics.

The rate of death by heart disease has dropped by 22 per cent since 2009, while death by dementia has increased by 69 per cent in the same period.

West Moreton Health clinical nurse consultant Ryan Lindenmayer said with an aging local population and a rising number of emergency presentations across the region, implementing programs to support the care of frail and elderly patients was a "priority".

Several services have been brought on board to help optimise the health of this demographic, including the geriatric emergency department intervention program and the residential aged care acute support service.

The GEDI program provides rapid, upfront assessment, communication, care co-ordination and discharge planning for elderly people, led by specially trained nurses who perform structured and comprehensive assessments.

"(It) focuses on getting patients assessed quickly and then fast-tracked through the health care system where they can get the right care in the right place at the right time," Mr Lindenmayer said.

"Patients typically present to the ED with concerns about one single condition, but our GEDI nurses' assessments go beyond that and work with other health care providers to develop care plans that enable patients to receive holistic care in hospital and after discharge.

"This helps to reduce hospitalisations, frees up emergency department resources and improves the quality of life for the elderly."

Mr Lindenmayer said hospitals can be overwhelming for older people and the program assisted to reduce functional decline in these patients.

"Functional decline is what we call reduced physical and/or cognitive functioning that occurs when a person is hospitalised and unable to engage in their normal daily activities," he said.

"It can occur very quickly after hospitalisation, can be very difficult to recover from and in almost one third of hospitalised older people it is unrelated to their primary diagnosis."

The RaSS is a free service that supports the care of older people living in residential aged care facilities and aims to reduce the number of unnecessary hospital admissions.

"(They're) getting the care they need sooner, in their home location," Mr Lindenmayer said.

"If the patient requires a transfer to hospital, the RaSS team will ensure the local emergency department is aware of the transfer and streamline the admission process.

"The patient's GP remains their primary care provider and they will be involved in any care decisions."

For more information on the GEDI program, call 38101111 or to inquire about RaSS, contact 38101530.