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First count of Australians living alone with dementia

23 September 2015
It's essential that we find out what people living alone with dementia need to live well

University of Sydney researchers are conducting the inaugural count of Australians living alone with dementia, in an effort to better understand their experiences.

Estimates suggest close to 70,000 Australians—or a third of people with dementia not in aged care—are living alone in the community, many without support of family or social services.

Lead researcher Dr Jennifer Fletcher said the study is vital for planning dementia services for the future as changes to Australia’s social and cultural landscape mean living alone will become even more common in years to come.

“Australians are living longer which is great, but our support circles are getting smaller as we are often ending relationships in mid-life and having fewer or no children,” said Dr Fletcher from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“Residential services are not going to be able to keep up with demand as our population ages, so it’s essential that we know what people with dementia living alone in the community need to live well.”

The first stage of the study is a count of the number of people with dementia living by themselves in Sydney’s south east, but Dr Fletcher said even this is proving a challenge.

“If people aren’t accessing services it can be very difficult for us to find them, so we are hoping family, friends and neighbours will encourage participation,” said Dr Fletcher.

“We are calling on the community to help as it’s really important we get an accurate snapshot of the number of people living alone, and how they are faring.”

Following the count, the researchers will carry out interviews to compare the experiences of people with dementia living by themselves to those living with a family member or other person. They hope to get a better understanding of how people with dementia are managing in their homes if they do live alone, and any challenges they face.

“People with dementia who live alone may be at a much higher risk for problems with things like money, nutritional needs, medication management and safety.”

“If we can find out more about their needs we can help plan the delivery of the right kind of services to allow people to maintain their independence, and not end up in nursing homes prematurely.”

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO The Hon. John Watkins AM said the study is important as research shows living alone with dementia is a growing issue.

“We know the majority of people living with dementia prefer to stay at home for as long as possible, and that applies to people who live alone as well. And they have the right to live at home, if they choose to, for as long as it is safe to do so.”

“But people living alone with dementia tend to slip through the cracks. That’s why it is important to get a good understanding of the size of the issue, so we can start to find ways to better support these people.”

The study is led by the University of Sydney in partnership with the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

Participation information:

If you (or a person you know) have dementia and live on your own in South East Sydney please contact us to:

  1. arrange to count you (or the person you know) in the prevalence survey.

    And, if interested:

  2. arrange an interview with our friendly research staff about living with dementia.

    Email aplawd@sydney.edu.au or phone 02 9351 9988