New young-onset dementia telehealth service goes live

Young-onset dementia (YOD) affects around 25,000 Australians. This accounts for about 10 per cent of all people with dementia. 

Many people can fall between the cracks with medical and mental health teams not being familiar with YOD. Early detection leads to specialised expert care to manage a patient's unique set of needs.

The launch of telehealth to help diagnose and provide ongoing care for YOD is a breakthrough for those suffering the condition- particularly those in remote and regional areas.

Professor Dennis Velakoulis, Director of the Neuropsychiatry unit at The Royal Melbourne Hospital said on average, people with YOD experience delay in diagnosis of up to 5 years, and have frequently seen numerous medical specialists prior to getting a referral.

“Timely diagnosis is critical to ensure early intervention, adequate treatment and the ability to plan for the future,” Prof Dennis Velakoulis said.

Telehealth uses technology to allow patients, who are deemed clinically appropriate, to have video appointments with specialists using their own smartphone, tablet or computer.

Dr Deborah Goff, Neuropsychologist Albury Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service says the service will save patients hours of travel time and the involvement of extra care and help.

“It allows them to get access to specialists who are leaders in the field of younger onset dementia and also to have access to tests/scans which are not available in Albury Wodonga,” Dr Goff said.

"They can also take advantage of genetic testing and counselling which is very important when working with younger onset dementia because of the high incidence of genetic transmission."

Families with YOD often face more economic disadvantage due to the loss of income of the patient and also the carer or family member assisting with appointments.

Incorporating help for YOD through telehealth has the potential to effectively deliver specialist help to those in regional, rural and remote areas, as well as for those with impaired cognition. 

The program is funded by Better Care Victoria and is a collaboration between The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Memory Services, Huntington's Victoria and Dementia Australia.

Since the program launched in April 2019, 26 people have been seen as part of the pilot implementation. There have been over 29,000 km saved for clients and their families, and over 8 tonnes of carbon emissions saved.

For more information, visit helping people with YOD using Telehealth and YOD for health professionals