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Lonely rest home residents at risk –Age Concern

Lonely rest home residents at risk –Age Concern

Age Concern New Zealand media release 19 November 2009

As concerns about abuse and neglect in rest homes rise, lonely and isolated older people are especially vulnerable, says Age Concern New Zealand.

It's a paradox: even in the midst of a crowded rest home, it's possible to be isolated and alone.  Age Concern says people facing this problem are likely to be at greater risk of abuse and neglect, yet there's a simple solution available.

"There's a lot of concern about abuse and neglect at the moment. Although vigilant auditors and consistent standards have an important role, often the solutions are in ordinary people's own hands," Age Concern chief executive Ann Martin says. 

"Older people who have regular visitors are likely to be safer.

"Most rest home residents have someone to look out for them, whether it's their husband, wife, family members or friends.  These visitors provide eyes and ears to observe and listen to problems or issues.

"However, overseas research shows that contact with family and friends halves when people move into rest homes.  In this country, Families Commission research has identified social isolation as an abuse and neglect risk factor.

""Problems can fall between the cracks when carers are busy –no-one notices the person isn't eating, is desperate for extras such as toiletries, or has untreated dental or medical problems till it's too late.

"We know that loneliness makes people ill – isolated people have much worse health outcomes," Ann Martin says.

The national organisation working for older people wants to help them but funds are limited.

Age Concern's Accredited Visiting Service matches volunteer visitors with older people.

"Our Visitors are trained to look out for health issues whilst promoting social connectionand other activities," Ann Martin says.

However, the funding focus is now firmly on older people who live at home, so Age Concern is no longer funded to take on new clients living in resthomes.  They can only provide transitional support.  This is despite a 2004 Ministry of Health evaluation of visiting services that recommended older people in rest homes should not be ignored.

Age Concern is seeking extra funding to expand the Accredited Visiting Service it can provide to older people in rest homes.



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