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Dementia Care Crisis Looms, Warns Alzheimers NZ

Dementia Care Crisis Looms If Smart Decisions Not Made Soon

The Government needs to act now to prevent a crisis of care for people living with dementia in New Zealand.

Alzheimers New Zealand has today released a semenal piece of research: Economic Impact of Dementia in New Zealand (2008).

Chair, Dr Bryan Bang, said the study, part funded by the Alzheimers New Zealand Charitable Trust and the Ministry of Health, is the first piece of comprehensive research to produce robust data on the prevalence and incidence of dementia, the health system costs, the burden of disease and the cost benefits of delaying institutional care.

Dr Bang said the report shows that the number of people living with dementia is much higher than previously estimated.

He said the report estimates that in 2008 there are an estimated 40,746 New Zealanders with dementia. Of these 12,333 were newly diagnosed in 2008.

Immediate past Chair, Joy Simpson, said: “We have always thought the numbers were higher than our estimates and the Report now confirms this”.

However, she warns that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that New Zealand is potentially facing a dementia epidemic.

“By 2026, the number of New Zealanders with dementia is projected to increase to 74,821. By 2050, there will be 146,699 people with dementia.

“In the year 2050 more people will be diagnosed with dementia than the total number of people with dementia in 2008” Ms Simpson said.

However, Dr Bang said it’s not all bad news. Alzheimers New Zealand believes our country is well placed to deal with the increasing incidence of dementia as long as appropriate levels of funding and resourcing are put in place.

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“New Zealanders are innovative in their thinking and this will help us come up with the range of options needed to provide appropriate services for people living with dementia - from diagnosis through to residential care.

“The fact is that most of the care is already happening in the community, not in care facilities and this has huge implications for carers and families” he said.

“The cost benefits of supporting people and delaying institutionalisation speak for themselves, but we need to have appropriate funding and resourcing in place to support these families.

Dr Bang said the bright spot is that there is at least some time to plan for this and to prevent it turning into a health care emergency.

ENDS

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