COMMUNITY CARE SERVICES
MOST PEOPLE WITH A terminal illness would probably prefer to live at home until they die. Most families would probably prefer to look after their disabled relatives for as long as possible at home. However, because dementia is such a slowly progressive condition, by comparison with illnesses such as cancer, the time frame over which care needs to be provided is very long. Without a strong community care system, most families and other carers are hamstrung in their efforts to look after the person with dementia at home.
Australia has earned a good reputation in international circles for its high quality community care services. That hasn't always been the case, however. In the early 1980s, few community-based services were available for dementia care. Various forms of respite care and community support that are now routinely available did not exist. Most health services provided no dementia-specific services. There was no routine dementia assessment. Family carers struggled along with limited support from friends, GPs and specialists until they could cope no longer and had to place their loved ones into an institution, usually either a psychiatric hospital or a nursing home. There was minimal community recognition of their plight, few places to get information about dementia (even the local GP was unlikely to know much) and no carer allowances or pensions from the government to help defray the economic burden of care. 1
In the early 1980s serious questions began to be asked about