Patterns of health service use by people with dementia in their last year of life: New South Wales and Victoria

End of life care Early onset dementia Medicine Dementia Health services accessibility New South Wales Victoria

Dementia is a major health issue in Australia. In 2015, dementia was the fourth-leading cause of burden of disease and injury. For those aged 65 and over, it was the second-leading cause (AIHW 2019a). Furthermore, dementia was the second-leading cause of death overall in Australia in 2018 and the leading cause of death among Australian women (ABS 2019).

Dementia is irreversible and as the condition progresses, health and functional ability decline, leading to increasing care needs. Assessing how health services are used by people in their last year of life, and how this may differ for people with dementia, is important for policy development and health service planning and delivery to ensure all Australians receive appropriate care in their final years of life.

This study examined the use of health services by over 70,000 people in the 12 months before their death in 2013 using linked health administrative data. Both the type and quantity of health services were explored and differences between people with and without dementia were investigated. The health services examined included general practitioner (GP) and specialist services; admitted care in a hospital; and emergency department (ED) care, as well as dispensing of prescription medication. Use of aged care services could not be examined in the study.

Results from this study provide a greater understanding of health service use by people with dementia in their final year of life, but further studies are needed to gain a more comprehensive picture of people with dementia in Australia.

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