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Increase in funding for dementia care on West Coast

Media release
9 August 2011

Increase in funding for dementia care on West Coast

Dementia care on the West Coast will benefit from an extra $90,000 this year following a funding increase announced in the 2011 budget. The extra funding will increase the opportunity for more rest home level dementia care beds that are in short supply on the Coast.

West Coast DHB chief executive David Meates says, “The money will allow the West Coast DHB to fund rest home beds through its contracts with local providers, and is in addition to further DHB funding for new and expanded support services for elderly in their own homes.

“The West Coast is unique in having a psychogeriatric long-stay facility — the Kahurangi Dementia Unit at Grey Base Hospital — but no dementia rest home level care (D3/D4) beds apart from those available in Kahurangi. The reason for this is historical; Kahurangi took over Seaview Hospital residents when it closed and therefore essentially started as a facility for more severe cases.

“The lack of D3/D4 beds has been critical on the West Coast, putting pressure on families and on DHB and private facilities. Patients that require a level D3/D4 bed are those who have been assessed as mobile but needing a secure environment.”

Wayne Turp, general manager planning and funding for the West Coast DHB, said the extra funding would address the need for better resourcing within the aged care sector, especially for those elderly people requiring higher more specialised care.

“The increase in funding is timely, as we work on a whole-of-system approach between the DHB and private rest home providers as part of the West Coast health of older persons strategy.

“Over the next 20 years it is predicted there will be a 50 per cent increase in the number of people aged over 65, putting increasing pressure on resourcing elderly persons health care.”

Torfrida Wainwright, of the DHB planning and funding, said based on Alzheimers NZ’s estimates on the prevalence of dementia it was likely about 375 West Coasters currently had dementia, with this figure predicted to have risen to about 520 in 10 years.

“Most people are able to live at home with support for themselves and their carers, but around 15% (55 of the 375) are likely to need permanent supervision, mostly in residential care facilities.”

The DHB’s older persons health strategy was planning for the provision of increased residential services at a higher level of care and for the increasing need for well-resourced community-based care, to enable the elderly to safely remain in their homes for as long as possible, she said.

Mr Turp says, “This year the DHB has funded a range of new and expanded services to support carers, including monthly carer support groups in Greymouth, Westport and Hokitika, and dementia day care groups within the HomeShare day care programme. Support for carers is crucial if older people are to stay in at home longer and avoid unwanted rest home entry.”

The further funding for dementia care, combined with plans for better-resourced community-based care, demonstrated the DHB’s commitment to the Ministry of Health’s Better, Sooner, More Convenient strategic approach to health care services, Mr Turp said. Better, Sooner, More Convenient Primary Health Care is the Government's initiative to deliver a more personalised primary health care system that provides services closer to home and makes Kiwis healthier.

Positive impact of Homeshare daycare group

Until his mother, Alison Davidson, joined in a West Coast Homeshare daycare group, funding for similar community initiatives had just been a “figure in a financial report”, according to former Tairawhiti (Gisborne) District Health Board member Alan Davidson.

But having seen the positive impact the weekly meetings have had on Alison’s memory loss and general mental agility, Alan is a firsthand believer in the necessity of providing support in the community to enable elderly people to stay in their own homes, and as part of the community, for as long as possible.

Alan says that about four years ago he and his siblings, three of whom live on the Coast, became concerned about their mother’s wellbeing. At 88, a widow, mother of eight children and a former pharmacist, she had always been mentally alert and agile. Then she started to develop short term memory loss and breaking bones from falls “and we were struggling with the fact that she was not able to look after herself”.

Alison was moved into a council flat and the car was sold. It soon became apparent that she was in sore need of stimulation if the decline in mental agility was to be arrested.

In October last year Alison started attending a weekly Homeshare group on Linda Lavers’ farm near Kumara Junction. The Homeshare programme is jointly funded by the West Coast DHB and Presbyterian Support. The service enables isolated older people who cannot access existing day-care facilities to meet in small groups in private homes in their community to enjoy a day activity programme, companionship and a hot, home-cooked meal.

Alan says the benefits to his mother have been enormous. “Now when we talk we are not going back to 1946 when she arrived on the Coast. We talk about her friends in the group and what she has been doing.

“She thoroughly enjoys the company and the ability to get out into another environment. The benefit may be direct to Mum, and it most certainly is, but the indirect flow on to us siblings is heartwarming. It’s just so damn good to see Mum so content and happy.”

DHB funding for Homeshare totals $95,000 annually, and is one of a number of programmes the Board funds as part of its commitment to providing home-based support for elderly people and working in collaboration with other organisations to achieve this.


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