InterRAI home care assessments reveal some insights into the level of support required by people living at home with dementia.

More than half of people caring for a loved one with dementia and cognitive performance issues report feeling overwhelmed by the person’s support needs. This was one of the findings emerging from interRAI data collected over the past year.

For the first time in New Zealand, data from 35,500 comprehensive home care assessments has been analysed to show the extraordinary load that family and friends shoulder when they care for someone living with dementia.

The data showed:

  • One in four interRAI Home Care assessed clients in 2016/17 had a formal diagnosis of dementia.
  • 35% of home care clients with dementia and cognitive performance issues require extensive assistance or are completely dependent.
  • 18% of homecare clients with dementia and cognitive performance issues receive full time unpaid care from family or friends, more than 40 hours per week, compared to only 4% of clients without dementia.
  • One in three assessed home care clients living with dementia and cognitive performance issues have daily episodes of troubling behaviours, for example, wandering, being verbally or physically abusive, or resisting care.
  • 44% of primary carers report feeling distressed or angry because of the demands of caring for their loved one.
  • 55% of family or friends who care for a person living with dementia report feeling overwhelmed by the person’s support needs.

Throughout New Zealand, assessors in District Health Boards use the standardised interRAI Home Care assessment instruments to help determine which level of support is required for elderly clients who live at home. The data is then aggregated to provide information at provider, regional or national level.

While it initially took a huge effort on the part of aged care and home care providers to get interRAI off the ground in New Zealand, the hard work is starting to pay off, with the release of data starting to show some clear trends.

Chair of the interRAI New Zealand Governance Board Catherine Cooney says the assessment tools from interRAI are quickly becoming a real asset for researchers and health planners.

“interRAI produces reliable data on many aspects of ageing in New Zealand, including the workload for carers, much of which was not available at all before,” says Cooney.

Catherine Hall, Chief Executive of Alzheimers NZ agrees.

“This information shows how dramatically dementia changes the lives of the people living with it, together with their families, friends and communities.”

“Providing care and support for somebody with dementia is extraordinarily challenging and many carers report feeling distressed or angry because of the demands of caring for their loved one,” says Hall.

September is World Alzheimers Month and Hall urges people living with dementia, and their family and friends, to get help early by contacting their local Alzheimers organisation and DHB.

interRAI Services will publish this and more data about dementia in New Zealand as a special feature in their annual report in December 2017.

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