Saturday, November 27

Ask for more dementia support and resources to meet growing demand

With an early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis at the age of 60, dementia advocate Alister Robertson has spent the past seven years adjusting to a post-diagnosis life.

Alister Robertson, Member of the Board of Directors of Alzheimer's NZ

Dementia advocate Alister Robertson hopes that over time the stigma around the condition will fade.
Photo: supplied

He is a keen cyclist and tries to keep his brain healthy with a good diet, sleep and an active social life, which he says is crucial.

“Many people with the diagnosis tend to withdraw, because the most important thing is probably the stigma associated with it,” he said.

“And that’s probably the worst thing you can do, because then you tend to end up experiencing isolation, loneliness, possibly depression and even a lack of motivation, and those things don’t impact well when you have dementia.”

Often times after people were diagnosed, it was not easy to get information, either for the patient or for their support, he said.

“You really need to know, what kinds of things are you likely to experience?” He said.

“It’s not just for people with dementia, but probably more, and more importantly, for the caregiver.

“Because somehow, I think the journey is probably worse for them than for someone like me, with the actual illness.

“And then what services are really available?”

Around 70,000 New Zealanders have dementia, but that number is expected to rise to about 170,000 in the next 30 years.

Health experts warn that it will put unbearable pressure on our healthcare system, costing nearly $ 6 billion a year.

Alzheimer’s New Zealand has a plan to address the rising tide of need, the Mate Wareware Action Plan, but the government has yet to adopt it.

Executive Director Catherine Hall said existing support now would not be enough.

“Services tend to be one-size-fits-all, so they tend not to focus on meeting the needs of the people and the communities they are in,” Hall said.

“It is common for the human rights of people living with dementia to be overlooked or ignored.”

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said she called on health officials to focus on improving respite care, early diagnosis and more culturally appropriate services for Maori.

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Deputy Health Minister Ayesha Verrall says there will be discussions on how to support the Dementia / Mate Wareware Action Plan.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Dementia rates among the Maori, Pacific and Asian populations are projected to nearly triple by 2050.

University of Auckland Senior Lecturer Makarena Dudley said there was a need to boost support services on the ground for whānau caring directly for their loved ones.

“Many Maori will provide [care], but a lot of unpaid care to the person suffering from mate, “said Dr. Dudley.

“And this is in line with traditional practices where traditionally, you know, we kept our sick at home and cared for them in the comfort and safety of the whānau.”

Dudley wanted to see more resources aimed at improving Maori health education about dementia.

“The Maori just don’t have access to information about the mate software,” he said.

“There is a lot of fear in the community, because they don’t know what it is.

“They look around in the community and they can see that the people are understanding it, the people in their whānau, their friends are understanding it, but they don’t really know what it is.”

Alister Robertson hopes that over time, what we think of when we hear the word dementia will also change for the better.

“Sometimes as soon as you bring that up, people suddenly turn away from you,” he said.

“Because I think when you mention dementia, for most people, they associate it with someone in the final stages of dementia, people imagine them in a closed unit and unable to converse, that sort of thing.

“A large number of people still live at home and continue to do most of the daily things that they can do.”

Aged Care Association CEO Simon Wallace said six of the 20 DHBs already had a dementia care bed shortage and another 5,000 beds nationwide were nearing full capacity.

“Government funding for dementia care is woefully inadequate at the operational level, but there is also no funding for capital investment in the development of new facilities, which is desperately needed to meet not only the growing demand over the next 30 years, but also existing and short-term. term needs, “Wallace said.

“Ultimately, once the existing vacant capacity is used, we will need around 220 new dementia beds per year to meet the growth in demand and by the end of this decade that will increase to around 250-270 new beds. for dementia a year “.

The nursing shortage was a critical pressure point, he said, with the workforce short at an unprecedented 20 percent.

The government urgently needed to resolve funding disparities that were pushing nurses out of nursing homes to work on district health boards, he said.

“In the long term, we need to see more government investment in training and developing a national workforce with specialized dementia care capabilities.”

Minister Verrall said she would discuss with her colleagues how best to support the implementation of the Dementia / Mate Wareware Action Plan.

“I hope that progress will be made throughout this year and 2022.”

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