According to current estimates, around 13,000 persons in Austria are living with a form of dementia. Due to the increased average age of the population and the related rise in life expectation, this figure will presumably double by 2050.
From the perspective of care and support, the issue of dementia has a special status given that the vast majority of people with dementia-related impairments are looked after at home by their family members.
There is no cure for dementia, but early diagnosis makes it possible to slow down and mitigate the course of the disease.
Qualified support and advice is important to help those affected and their family members. In suspected cases, it is possible to contact a memory clinic or a doctor specialising in neurology. In addition, there are regional advice and support offers in the provinces.
Support offers for dementia sufferers and their families
Caring for and supporting elderly people in need of care (and possibly suffering from dementia) is no longer the exception today, and has become a central issue in Austrian social policy. It is not only those in need of care, but also and particularly their caregiving family members who require support, as depending on their health and the current situation in their lives and their own families, they frequently take on great burdens and are making an extremely valuable contribution to society.
In these situations, the Ministry of Social Affairs provides support in the form of various measures in the case of family members who are in need of care and are suffering from dementia.
Long-term care benefit – hardship supplement
When a person’s need for care is established, a hardship supplement can be awarded with the aim of providing a lump sum to compensate for the additional costs due to the aggravated care situation. This supplement amounts to 25 hours per month (Section 4 para. 5 of the Federal Act on Long-term Care Benefit) (BPGG).
Care leave / part-time work for caregiving relatives / care leave benefit
In order to improve the compatibility of providing care and working, the instruments of care leave and part-time work for caregiving relatives have been introduced into the Act on the Adaptation of Employment Contracts (AVRAG, Sections 14c-15). During this period, protection is provided to employees against being made redundant due to them taking care leave. They also have a legal right to care leave benefit (Section 21c et seq BPGG), and as caregiving relatives they are safeguarded by social insurance law. If dementia-related impairments have been established in the person in need of care, a care leave agreement can be made even if the person is only in care stage 1 (and in any case from stage 3).
Allowance towards the cost of a replacement carer
If caregiving relatives are temporarily prevented from providing care due to illness, holidays or other reasons, an allowance is provided by the federal government (Section 21a BPGG).
This allowance is intended to contribute towards covering the costs which arise due to the need for professional or private substitute care when the usual main carer is unable to carry out his or her duties. In the case of confirmed dementia-related impairments, this is also possible for persons receiving long-term care benefit at stage 1(and generally from stage 3).
In addition, in order to improve the situation the previous guidelines for the granting of payments to support caregiving relatives as laid down in Section 21a BPGG were changed as of 1 January 2017 with the effect that the maximum annual amounts for caregiving relatives of people with dementia-related impairments were increased by €300 in all care stages. They thus amount to €1500 for the care of a person receiving long-term care benefit at stages 1, 2 or 3, €1700 at stage 4, €1900 at stage 5, € 2300 at stage 6 and €2500 at stage 7.
Quality assurance in care at home: home visits and counselling for caregiving relatives upon request
As part of quality assurance in care at home, the Ministry of Social Affairs offers free home visits with advice from qualified nurses. In addition, family members who feel stressed as a result of the care situation can also take advantage of free counselling.
In the field of long-term care, the federal government supports the provinces and local authorities with grants from the long-term care fund which are earmarked for securing support and care services and their needs-based extension and development. Until 31 October of each year at the latest, the provinces are obliged by the provisions of the Long-term Care Fund Act to present to the Ministry of Social Affairs plans to safeguard, extend and develop care provision for the following year.
The Long-term Care Fund Act also lays down that the results of evidence-based research in the field of care have to be taken into account when caring for people with dementia-related impairments.
The Austrian dementia strategy: Living Well with Dementia
The development of the Austrian dementia strategy in 2015 laid the foundations for an orientation framework on how to best support people with people with dementia-related impairments and their families and friends.
Due to the increasing significance of dementia, the government health agency Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (GÖG) was commissioned in 2014 by the then Ministry of Health and Social Affairs to develop a dementia strategy on the basis of the 2014 Austrian Dementia Report.
The work on the strategy was conducted in a participative process with six working groups. Representatives of the provinces, the Association of Austrian Cities and Towns, the social insurance institutions, interest groups, academics, important stakeholders, those affected as well as families and friends of dementia sufferers drew up targeted effects and initial recommendations for action in specific fields, whereby great value was attached to a common cross-cutting approach.
After the incorporation of all the suggestions from the online survey and a broadly-based evaluation procedure for the draft strategy, the final report – the results of the working groups – was presented to the public on 14 December 2015 by the ministers involved.
In this report, a total of seven targets and 21 recommendations for action were formulated, the achievement of which would improve the situations of persons with dementia-related impairments as well as that of their families and friends as well as providing a common orientation framework for purposeful cooperation between the stakeholders. On the basis of the refined recommendations for action, decision-makers (at federal, provincial and local authority levels) were to plan and realise measures in their own spheres in order to jointly achieve the defined targets.
Here is an overview of the seven targets – (with a total of 21 recommendations for action):
- Ensuring the participation and self-determination of those affected
- Extending the provision of broad and target group-specific information
- Strengthening knowledge and competence
- Creating standardised framework conditions
- Designing and ensuring the provision of care offers which are suited to the needs of people with dementia
- Further development of patient-centred coordination and cooperation
- Quality assurance and quality improvement through research.
The Austrian Dementia Report 2014 can be downloaded from the Brochure Service.
Nationwide measures for the implementation of the Austrian dementia strategy: Living Well with Dementia
The topic of dementia has long since ceased to be a marginal issue. On the contrary, it is a key challenge within the Austrian long-term care system, whose extension and constant further development to improve the lives of those affected and their families is a declared goal of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
With the implementation of the national dementia strategy, the Ministry of Social Affairs is taking on this important issue in cooperation with the provinces, local authorities, the association of towns and cities, the social insurance institutions, academia, those affected and their families and friends, and above all by involving a broad section of society.
The dementia strategy Living Well with Dementia, which was developed in cooperation with the federal government, the provinces, experts in the field and representatives of the organisations providing care, has been further refined and realised since 2016. Needs-oriented services which are coordinated across all areas of care, and which are continuously available to people with dementia and their families and friends, require the cooperation of all those responsible for the health and social services sectors. In order to contribute to the success of the Austrian dementia strategy, all stakeholders are invited to become active in their sphere of responsibility.
In order to support coordinated action, in 2016 the Federal Platform for the Dementia Strategy was established, which is described in more detail in the recommendation for action 4c of target 4 of the dementia strategy. The platform has the task of facilitating coordinated action and the implementation of joint cross-sector framework conditions and recommendations.
To this end, stakeholders, persons responsible for realisation, researchers and those affected are forming a joint platform, whereby existing structures will be taken into consideration. The implementation process will be accompanied and coordinated by a GÖG project team. In this way, cross-sector and nationwide cooperation of the relevant stakeholders is ensured.
In order to create the required framework for the present and the future, Divisions IV and IX of the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Long-Term Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK) commissioned the design of the information folder Living Well with mit Dementia and the creation of the website www.demenzstrategie.at. It describes the degree of implementation of measures which were laid down in the dementia strategy, and is primarily directed towards those persons, institutions and organisations which are contributing to the realisation of the dementia strategy. The website provides transparency on projects and initiatives which are operated by committed people and organisations, and opens up the opportunity to learn from already existing schemes.
A conference of the Dementia Strategy Platform takes place every year in one of the nine provinces The first conference took place in 2018 at the invitation of the province of Styria in the old University of Graz, and the second one was held in 2019 the Town Hall of Vienna at the invitation of the City of Vienna.
In addition, the project People with Dementia on Public Transport (PDF, 7 MB) (Menschen mit Demenz im öffentlichen Verkehr, in German) was recently subsidised. The goal of this project was the development of a brochure with recommendations for staff of transport companies on how they can contribute towards improved social participation of people with people with dementia-related impairments.
The brochure Demenzstrategie – Angebote für pflegende Angehörige (Dementia Strategy – Offers for Caregiving Relatives, in German) provides an overview of national and regional measures and projects to provide support in relation to dementia. These offers are updated regularly.
The guide Competence in Dementia in Hospitals (in German) is designed to support the creation of suitable parameters for hospitals which want to increase their ability to deal with dementia in patients. This brochure is currently being revised and will soon be made available again on the website. If you have any questions, please write to email@example.com).
In August 2020, the guide Competence in Dementia in Care Homes was published. The aim of the guide is to make a contribution towards the further development of competence in dementia in residential and care/nursing homes. The guide aims to increase the awareness of decision makers and managers in relation to the care and support of people with people with dementia-related impairments. It suggests measures which contribute towards reducing stressful situations for residents, their families and staff members in the everyday life of residential homes.
As of October 2019, home visits by nurses were extended to include recipients of long-term care benefit with dementia. The intention here is to meet the considerable needs for information and advice of their families and relatives and to thus reduce the high levels of stress which they frequently encounter. This measure also connects to the measures in relation to quality assurance in care at home.
Information on the dementia strategy is also available in easy read versions.
Logo of the dementia strategy
As a sign of the joint path we wish to take with the dementia strategy, a special logo was created. This is to be used in all of the activities carried out within the framework of the strategy and should also disseminate the core message of the strategy.
If you require the logo in another format, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org