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Are Home Based Care Policies Compromising Health?

Roy Reid, President Grey Power Federation 30 May 2018

Are Home Based Care Policies for Elderly People Compromising Their Health?

A generation of policy makers have developed care for the elderly based on the assumption that they are better off in their own homes, with home care support. However, is it time to question whether this policy is actually compromising many elderly people’s health and well-being?

For some older people, at-home based care works well, especially if its combined with support from family and friends. But for others, they get to a point where staying at home is not safe, they feel isolated and lonely and their health and well-being is deteriorating.

The recent report issued by the New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) highlighting the potential benefits to an older person’s health and well-being of moving into aged residential care couldn’t have come at a better time.

The analysis clearly shows that significant improvements can be achieved in an older person’s health when they move into aged care at the right time. 74.5% of older people experienced improvement in their health stability, which is extremely important as it points to a person having more independence and enjoying life.

Even more encouraging is the 82% improvement in people no longer feeling lonely after they move into aged care. Mental health and social isolation can lead to depression and a decline in health and well-being and we are constantly hearing stories about the impact loneliness has on an older person.

The impact of ageing can be difficult to talk about, and for many of us it will be one of the most challenging times in our lives. Many of us will struggle with a deterioration in our health, loss of independence, loneliness, increased pain, and a decline in our ability to do everyday activities such as bathing and eating.

We have a rapidly aging population and the sheer number of people who will live into their 80s and 90s and beyond is projected to grow significantly. Our aging population will place increasing pressure on our families, and communities and Government to ensure our elderly kiwis are well looked after and can live positively.

The NZACA report provides clear evidence about the improvements to an elderly person’s health and well-being after moving into aged care. In my view, with a rapidly aging population, there is no better time for New Zealand to be having a conversation about aging, and how to best care for our older Kiwis. We need to talk about whether people are staying at home too long, and as families we need to be open about whether an elderly person would enjoy better health by moving into aged care.

The current policies around “aging in place” go so far as assuming that elderly people have family or help nearby to supplement the professional care they receive. We need to be mindful that this is not always the case as often, with many family members living in other parts of the country or overseas.

Too often, people arrive into aged care in an ambulance after a catastrophic event, and it doesn’t have to be that way. By talking about the options for care as we age, moving into aged care can be a positive choice, and doesn’t need to be a last resort.

Our elderly New Zealanders are some of our most vulnerable members of our community. We have a responsibility to ensure that older people know they have choices around the right care for them, whether that be home based, or aged residential care, to better support both them and their families.

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