Ahead of the General Election, Alzhiemers NZ has written to each political party seeking information regarding their policies and plans to respond to the healthcare challenge that dementia presents.
Below is the National Party's response to our questions.
What are you doing to promote and support a New Zealand Dementia Strategy?
The Government set an overarching framework for dementia care and support in the New Zealand Framework for Dementia Care which was published in November 2013. The Framework was developed in collaboration with people with dementia, their families, district health boards and non-governmental organisations, including Alzheimers NZ. The Government is using the Framework, along with the investments it has made, to drive further change and improvement in dementia care.
In addition, the Government is currently developing a ‘Dementia Position Statement’ which outlines the current and future actions required to improve the lines of people with dementia. This statement is currently being finalised and it is hoped we will be in a position to release it shortly.
What are you doing to encourage and promote a dementia-friendly NZ?
The Government wants to support people with dementia to receive quality services, and live as good a life as possible, whether they live at home or in residential care. With the number of people with dementia currently estimated to be around 50,000 people, and projected to rise to an estimated 78,000 people by 2026, the Government has made dementia services a priority in recent Budgets.
Key to achieving a dementia-friendly NZ is to remove the stigma that can be associated with dementia. In recognition of this, Budget 2013 allocated $1.25 million over three years to support a dementia awareness campaign to create a broader understanding and acceptance of dementia.
What are you doing to strengthen community and home-based support for people affected by dementia?
Historically, people with advanced dementia have been cared for in rest homes. The Government understands that more and more people want to be able to stay in their own homes alongside their families and community. Supporting people with dementia to remain at home, with services coming to them and being readily available in the community, is therefore crucial to ensuring their health, independence, and happiness.
Spending on home support services for older people has increased 28% since 2008/09, with over 10 million home support hours now being purchased every year. Budget 2013 allocated a further $20m over four years, and Budget 2014 $96m over four years, for home support services for older people.
In Budget 2011 the Government also allocated $1 million per year specifically for dementia respite care to support the carers of people living with dementia.
What are you doing to lift the quality of care and support for people affected by dementia?
The 2010 Aged Residential Care Services Review identified the provision of dementia care services as a key service gap. In response, the Government has
made dementia a priority, allocating almost $100m of additional funding over Budgets 2011, 12 and 13 specifically for dementia services.
Additional funding for residential dementia care services ($10 million per year in Budget 2011, $7.5 million per year in Budget 2012, and $3 million per year in Budget 2013) has supported an increase in the number of dementia beds across the country by 25 percent since 2008. This has ensured there are quality residential care options available to those people with dementia for whom living at home is no longer an option.
All DHBs have also been requested to develop and implement dementia care pathways, supported by an allocation of $10 million over four years in Budget 2012. The pathways are intended to draw together a range of services and, through agreed care plans, ensure that people with dementia receive integrated care from the point of diagnosis, to the end of life. A focus of the pathways is on achieving an earlier diagnosis, so people are able to make plans and decisions about their own future care, and ensuring the smooth access to and provision of services along the care pathway.
The Government has also invested in growing the skills, knowledge and ability of the aged care workforce, which will improve support for people with dementia. Aged care was added as an eligible hard-to-staff specialty for nurses for the Voluntary Bonding Scheme in 2011, and since 2013 a Nurse Entry to Practice programme has been running in Aged Residential Care that aims to attract and retain graduate nurses in the aged care sector. More specifically, Budget 2013 allocated over three years $1.2 million to increase dementia training for support workers and $750,000 to improve the dementia awareness and responsiveness of primary health care professionals.
Are you looking to increase the investment in research into dementia?
The Health Research Council manages the Government's investment in health research. In its 2014 funding round the Council awarded almost $150,000 to Dr Tracy Melzer of the NZ Brain Research Institute for research relating to dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
‘Ageing well – harnessing science to sustain health and wellbeing into the later years of life’ is one of the Government’s ten National Science Challenges. The Challenges are designed to take a more strategic approach to the government's science investment by targeting a series of goals, which, if they are achieved, would have major and enduring benefits for New Zealand.
How do you plan to establish New Zealand’s leadership role in respect of dementia?
As previously mentioned, this Government has made improving dementia care a priority, both through the allocation of additional funding and policies that encourage health and social services to work together to provide people with dementia with integrated care.
For the full briefing paper and other party responses click here.
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