Dementia and Homelessness: Report to the Victoria and Tasmania Dementia Training Study Centre

The very nature of homelessness means a lack of access to many of the supports most people take for granted. Older people can often be excluded from support services because of fierce independence and a reluctance to push their ‘rights’; they become invisible. People who are homeless do not come to the attention of aged care services and to some extent, remain invisible. Older people have the same human rights whether homeless or not, and should be able to access appropriate support services (Lipmann, 2009). Morris et al. claim that along with increasing homelessness and inadequate housing options for older people there is also a shortage of relevant policy initiatives to address these issues (Morris, Judd & Kavanagh, 2008). Lipmann (2009) states that whilst there is considerable government funding going into dementia research and support services for people with dementia, little of this is directed towards people with dementia who are homeless and relates this to the stigma associated with homelessness and the fact people who are homeless do not engage with services. Dementia is most often identified by a person’s local general practitioner (GP), usually initiated by a family member, carer or friend. The lack of engagement between older people who are homeless and aged care services is at the core of the problem (Lipmann, 2009). Funds and resources tend to flow to mainstream aged care services and Lipmann (2009) argues for mainstream aged care funding for welfare organisations that provide services to older people who are homeless (p. 285, Lipmann, 2009). Further research is needed to understand dementia in the older homeless population and to understand the education, training and resource needs of those support services (mainstream or otherwise) who engage with older people who are homeless.
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