Many older New Zealanders have to wait much longer than others to enter residential aged care, purely because of where they live. This was the key finding of a major report released by the New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) today.
The report, Caring for our older Kiwis: The right place, at the right time, based on comprehensive interRAI analysis and information obtained through the Official Information Act, provides evidence of the benefits of rest home care, but also raises serious concerns about the ability of many elderly people to access care when they need it.
“Over half of the country’s DHBs are delaying access to rest homes for older people who need it, and this can have serious consequences for their health”, says Simon Wallace, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA).
For example, an elderly person living in the Bay of Plenty DHB region who has been assessed as at risk of needing aged residential care, on average will wait nearly six months longer than someone who lives in Waitemata to access an aged care facility. A person in Hawke’s Bay will wait on average seven months longer than someone who lives in neighbouring MidCentral DHB.
“Postcode healthcare is simply not acceptable in New Zealand,” says Wallace.
He says the inconsistent approach taken by too many DHBs in assessing the health needs of elderly people means they miss out on the benefits of rest home care.
Based on more than 300,000 anonymised clinical interRAI assessments done throughout New Zealand over the past three years, the report provides evidence that rest home care adds significant value to the lives of older people.
The results show that 82% of older people reporting that they no longer feel lonely when they move into care, 74.5% had improved health stability and 62.6% had improved levels of pain. Improvements were also noted in cognitive performance, independence and mental well-being.
Wallace describes the results as “both exciting and challenging”. He notes that while the interRAI standardised assessment tools allow better monitoring of older people’s health and well-being, these tools need to be used consistently across the country.
“We are keen to work with the Government to progress their policy that the interRAI assessment tools are applied in a consistent way across all the DHBs so that our elderly people can be treated equally,” says Wallace.