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National: Caring for the carers

Tony Ryall MP
National Party Health Spokesman

20 October 2008

National: Caring for the carers

National will increase access to respite care for those caring for aged family members, says National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall.

"Respite care is a key way of helping people who are looking after an aged family member, by giving them a short break from care-giving responsibilities.

"Families caring for aged parents or spouses tell us that they worry about the pressure of caring for loved ones at home and how this impacts on their own health. Many have trouble finding suitable respite care.

"National will expand access to dedicated respite beds by $5 million a year, funded from within the health sector indicative spending allocation outlined in the PREFU.

"By making more dedicated respite beds available we will be able to better support unpaid caregivers so that the stress of caring doesn't affect their health, and also support older New Zealanders to remain in their own homes longer.

"Families' access to respite care is often different, depending on which DHB you live in. We will be undertaking a stock-take of these different levels of service so we can get fair improvements throughout the country."

This announcement covers not only relief for carers, but also respite for older people looking after themselves who may need a short stay in a residential care facility because of illness.

"District health boards currently spend an estimated $10 million a year on respite beds in aged-care facilities. Without access to dedicated respite beds, the residential care facilities fill up with long-term residents, so there are limited beds for respite care."

National Party Leader John Key is releasing a brochure in Auckland today that outlines some of the party's policies on seniors. It includes commitments on law and order and superannuation, alongside health initiatives for older New Zealanders.

National's Aged Care spokeswoman Jo Goodhew says National also wants to improve the quality of supervision and nursing in rest homes, through an additional $18 million a year to help rest homes support and retain nursing staff.

Currently, registered nurses working in residential care facilities are generally paid less per hour than those working for DHBs, and this pay differential is increasing. This is putting significant pressure on the ability of rest homes to maintain quality supervision. National recognises the importance of registered nurses within the team caring for older New Zealanders. Registered nurses undertake supervision of care standards and care planning and as such have an integral link to quality care provision.

National has previously undertaken to inflation-proof aged-care subsidies, and to work with providers and consumer groups to develop long-term plans to meet the future demand for aged-care services and beds.

ENDS

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