The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT
[10.00 p.m.]: Yesterday I had the opportunity, with the good grace of the Government Whip, who granted me leave of absence, to attend the annual general meeting of the
Alzheimer’s association. It was a particularly significant meeting. The raw statistics show that there are some 135,000 sufferers throughout the Commonwealth of Australia, two-thirds of whom live in New South Wales. It is estimated that perhaps as many again suffer the symptoms without as yet having been diagnosed. So about 200,000 people in New South Wales are victims of Alzheimer’s disease.
Two great scourges have emerged in recent decades. One is the increasing incidence of painful and ultimately fatal cancer. The other is loss of memory and dementia in aged persons. Advances in medical science have enabled people to live to a much greater age. They are residents of aged care facilities, as we call them now. Nursing home facilities once would have had a large number of people simply suffering from some restriction in their mobility or requiring other medical care. Now well over 60 per cent of residents are dementia patients who cannot be cared for other than in such institutions, which is a very sad thing.
This very worthy organisation promotes, firstly, awareness. It provides support and counselling for those involved in the early stages of diagnosis and for their family supporters as the disease progresses. It also provides professional development for carers and others involved. The organisation receives government support, both State and Federal, of about $800,000 a year. However, it requires well over $1 million for its annual operations. This shortfall presents a very daunting task in a community which is called on for philanthropic contributions for a very wide range of causes.
The activities of the organisation are not restricted to those who are clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; they cover people with much milder symptoms such as memory loss which may not develop into Alzheimer’s. When some of us are standing here at the rostrum occasionally we realise that our memory is not as sharp as it once was. But there are many people - even young people - who suffer from a chronic condition of memory lapse. It destroys their personality. They lose confidence. They are in great need of help. They may not go on to develop Alzheimer’s or develop an acute form of disease but their lives are very restricted. The only source of support and counselling for them is this very worthy organisation.
I was received very graciously by the chief executive officer, Louis Kaplan, who is known to many people here, and also by Dr Yeoh. I pointed out to them - this was evidenced by the large number of apologies from my colleagues from both sides of the House - that had it not been a sitting day a large number of members representing all parties would have attended.
They had support from everybody. I was the one who was privileged to represent the whole Parliament and wish them well on behalf of us all. I am sure honourable members would join with me in expressing very best wishes in their activities and the hope that somewhere around the corner there will be a dramatic breakthrough in mitigating the symptoms of this condition and perhaps arriving one day at a cure if the diagnosis can be effected early enough. I commend the organisation for its work.