For the first time in New Zealand – Dementia NZ has commissioned a comprehensive set of recommendations on the services and resources urgently needed for people living with dementia and their care partners in the community.
The report’s scope reflected both the immediate demand and the projected demand based on demographic trends. Two key findings were:
- the huge gaps we have e. many people with a new diagnosis of dementia and their whānau / families are not able to access basic support, education and advice about how to manage their condition.
- the immediate action needed i.e. agreement to fund providers to provide fair and equal services across the whole country.
Alarmingly the report’s co-author and chair of the Dementia Foundation, Dr Matthew Croucher, predicts New Zealand’s dementia population is set to double much faster than international modelling predicts, due to our ageing demographic skew.
“More than 70,000 New Zealanders are currently living with dementia. That’s likely to double in just 15-20 years rather than the predicted 20-25 year timeframe, and that makes a massive difference in a health system that’s already at breaking point.”
Additionally, the report found that whether or not a person with dementia and their family/whānau have access to good help and support in the first critical year of living with their diagnosis varies massively depending on where they live.
Part of the reason for this is that local community dementia organisations have had to develop their own programmes depending on resources they have available rather than a centralised funded approached from Health NZ – Te Whatu Ora.
Dr Croucher also outlined the benefit that early intervention and community resources would have for both the health system and those newly diagnosed with dementia.
“Statistics and experience shows that patients who present with dementia have far greater risks of complications and side effects, plus their acute care period can be twice as long as non-dementia patients. So if we can get the ‘ambulance’ at the top of the cliff in the form of earlier community intervention and assistance, it will significantly benefit the person living with dementia and the public health system.”
The research and report generated three levels of recommendations ranging from Core, to Intermediate and ‘Nice to have’. Key recommendations from each priority level included:
- Core recommendations
– national agreement on exactly what services must be available to everyone;
– agree on how we can measure whether these services are actually being taken up and that they are working.
- Intermediate recommendations
– everyone should help write a personal ‘care plan’ so they know exactly what will be done to help them in their unique situation;
– every whānau and family living with dementia should have a named ‘navigator’ who they can easily contact for advice about how to get the right help when needed.
- ‘Nice to have’ recommendations
– a national helpline should be set up so that people can access help 24/7.
Main audiences for the report are:
- The service providers e.g Dementia NZ affiliates, Alzheimer’s NZ organisations and other providers like Presbyterian Support etc. For the service providers the review defines what is demonstrated to be helpful for people with dementia and their families. It also clarifies what isn’t known or what isn’t shown to be helpful.
- The referrers e.g GPs, hospitals etc. They can see that the services and interventions are helpful and that referral is justified in a clinical sense.
- The people living with dementia and their whanau – They can look at the findings/conclusions, and ask questions about why they haven’t been referred or why they aren’t receiving a certain package of care.
- The Funders e.g the government – they can look at the evidence for the interventions reviewed and consider supporting the programmes reviewed.