Alzheimers New Zealand urges New Zealand government to recognise dementia as the most serious health crisis to be faced this century

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Alzheimers New Zealand is encouraged by the Australian federal government’s recent announcement that they will be committing almost AUS $270 million to dementia and hopes this announcement will go some way toward influencing our own government to take further financial action in New Zealand.

Under an aged-care reform package the Australian government will spend a total of $269.4 million over five years, including $164.3 million to be paid as supplements to people with dementia living in aged-care facilities and at home. The remainder of the money will go toward promoting early diagnosis of the disease. However, this amount this falls short of calls by Alzheimer's Australia for a $500m investment.

This financial commitment from the Australian government coupled with the recent announcement from the UK government that they will be doubling funding for dementia research, shows how other governments are stepping up and taking action to prepare for the inevitable rise in dementia. Alzheimers New Zealand is now urging our own government to take action and recognise dementia as the most serious health crisis to be faced this century.

A report released this month by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed the incidence of dementia is exploding in line with the rapid growth in aging populations worldwide, the most profound socio-economic phenomenon of this century. The number of people living with dementia worldwide, estimated at 35.6 million in 2010, is set to nearly double every 20 years, reaching 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.

In New Zealand, dementia is expected to increase to epidemic proportions in the very near future due to our country’s aging population. Today there around 44,000 recorded cases of dementia, however, we expect the true figure to be significantly higher than this as only 60% of people are diagnosed, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2011. Around half of all New Zealanders with dementia live with family carers, many of whom are providing around-the-clock care with little or no government support.

Alzheimers New Zealand is now approaching the third year of its National Dementia Strategy, launched at Parliament in May 2010. The strategy establishes clear actions to better support people with dementia and their carers. The document was developed in consultation with stakeholders throughout the sector, as well as with those who face the daily challenge of living with the disease. The strategy identifies key areas needing investment including early diagnosis and management of the disease, appropriate quality services, better supports for carers who provide in-home care, and development of a skilled work-force.

The success of the National Dementia Strategy hinges on the New Zealand government’s recognition of the social and economic impacts of the disease and adopting dementia as a national health priority. While the New Zealand dementia community is working towards fulfilling the action points of the strategy, the New Zealand government is yet to formally adopt it.

“The New Zealand government needs to recognise dementia as a national crisis in order to adequately fund the sector and best prepare for the significant costs of dementia in the future.

“Last year’s Budget announcement of $44m to dementia was a step in the right direction but additional funding is needed to support people living with dementia in the home,” says Alzheimers New Zealand chairperson, Martin Brooks.

According to the Alzheimers New Zealand Dementia Economic Impact Report (2008) delaying the entry of people with dementia into residential aged care by just three months would save the government $62.3 million. Alzheimers New Zealand have long advocated for better support for those caring for people with dementia at home, as part of the government’s aging in place strategy.

Alzheimers New Zealand asks government to make dementia a national health priority and recognise dementia as a national crisis and to adequately fund the sector to best prepare for the significant costs of dementia in the future.

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