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Government recognises looming dementia crisis

Government recognises looming dementia crisis

Minister of Health, Tony Ryall opened the Aged Concern Conference on 13 April with an acknowledgement of the growing needs of the dementia sector and the required investment by government to support this.

In acknowledging the looming crisis as cases of dementia are set to increase to epidemic proportions over the coming years, Minister Ryall recognised the importance of earlier diagnosis and provision of support to keep people in their home environment longer for both comfort and safety.

“One important way to achieve this is to better support those who care for their older people with dementia at home.” Says Ryall.

Alzheimers New Zealand, the lead body for the dementia sector supports Minister Ryall’s acknowledgement of the needs of better support for home-based care.

“According to the Dementia Economic Impact Report (2008) delaying the entry of people with dementia into residential aged care by just three months would save the government $62.3 million” says Alzheimers New Zealand national director, Johan Vos.

“We have long been advocating for better support for people caring for loved ones with dementia at home, as part of the aging in place strategy.

“We are asking the government to make dementia a national health priority in order to adequately fund the sector and allow for people to stay in home care for as long as possible. Dementia also needs to be included as a District Health Board health target,” says Mr Vos.

The devastating effects of the disease have recently been featured in the Listener, where Kate Clark and her husband Al Morrison discussed the challenges of early onset dementia. Their story touches on the desire that the majority of people with dementia have to stay at their home for as long as possible. Mrs Clark tells the Listener the most import thing for her is being able to do the things she usually does. Her biggest fear is going somewhere that is unfamiliar, “you just want to be at your own place. Because that’s the place you like. You don’t want to go into something you’ve never been inside before,” she says.

A National Dementia Strategy ny Alzheimers New Zealand, launched at Parliament in May 2010, established clear actions to better support people with dementia and their carers. This authoritative document was developed in consultation with stakeholders throughout the sector as well as those who face the daily challenge of living with dementia. The strategy identifies key areas needing investment including early diagnosis and management of the disease, appropriate services including best practices, and better supports for carers who provide in-home care. The actions of this strategy evaluate best practice and aim to set a quality
benchmark of care, ultimately improving the conditions and quality of life for a person with dementia.

The success of the National Dementia Strategy hinges on governments recognition of the social and economical impacts of the disease and adopting dementia as a national health priority.

“Minister Ryall’s acknowledgement of the importance of home based care and the investment required to support this is a step in the right direction” says Mr Vos, “Alzheimers New Zealand will continue to work with our sector partners to achieve a commitment from government that will prepare us for the future impacts of dementia, as well as supporting the good work already happening in our communities all around the country.”

According to the Alzheimers New Zealand’s Dementia Economic Impact Report 2008 there are over 43,000 people currently living with dementia in New Zealand and this number is expected to double every 20 years. There is no cure for dementia.

About dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Dementia occurs as a result of physical changes in the brain which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. In New Zealand, over 43,000 people have dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (50-70%).

By 2026, 74,821 people will have dementia
By 2050, 146,699 people will have dementia.

These numbers are growing dramatically due to an aging population combined with the fact people are living longer. Diagnosis is also being made at an increasingly younger age, sometimes in people as young as 50. There is no cure.

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