A dementia epidemic is looming in New Zealand as the number of Kiwis living with the condition will reach 150,000 by 2050.
Alzheimers NZ chief executive Catherine Hall told the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee today that the Government needs to prepare now.
Ms Hall said immediately implementing proposals in the 2013 New Zealand Framework for Dementia Care, which the government developed, will lead to more cost-effective care.
“The blueprint for dealing with this situation already exists – what is needed from the government is the commitment and funding to implement it.
“Treasury acknowledges there are long term fiscal implications for our economy due to our ageing population, and health costs are one of the most significant areas of public spending,” she said.
Ms Hall said that despite agreement across both government and non-government agencies about the direction of dementia care, there has been very little movement within this last Parliamentary term.
“We know we will not see movement before the September election, unless initiatives are funded within this Budget.”
Currently, there are about 60,000 Kiwis living with dementia. Alzheimers New Zealand estimates that will almost triple to over 150,000 by 2050.
“In order for the Government to alleviate the upcoming strain on the health system, provide better public services and a productive and competitive economy, it needs to fully fund and implement the Dementia Framework that it developed.”
Providing better support to people with dementia early will result in significant savings.
Research commissioned by Alzheimers New Zealand in 2008 found that delaying entry to residential care by just three months would have resulted in $32 million of savings that year.
“These costs are not just carried by the public health system, but also in productivity losses for carers who may have to give up or reduce paid employment to look after their partner,” Ms Hall said.
She said the opportunity costs for carers were estimated in 2012 to be $37.2 million.
However, the Framework was developed three years ago, and has yet to be fully implemented.
“It’s in the best interests of people with dementia and their carers,” Ms Hall said.
See the Alzheimers New Zealand Finance and Expenditure Select Committee submission here.
For more information, please contact Daniel Paul 021 400-993
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