Diagnosis, management and support around dementia is a national priority – and with the number of people living with dementia in New Zealand estimated to at least double within the next 30 years, putting the right processes in place now is important.

“The earlier the better, and we can manage this well,” says Psychiatrist of Old Age, Dr Matthew Croucher. “People with dementia can live well but they need a timely diagnosis, easy access to services and help to navigate them. There’s a lot of dementia services available but they can be difficult to find your way around, so it is important to ensure every person living with dementia and their carers know what to do and who to call if they have an issue.”

Dr Croucher is visiting South Island DHBs this year to discuss ways to improve local dementia services and help integrate ‘Dementia is Everybody’s Business’ – a shared South Island model of care guide. Following his visit to Southern DHB in May, he plans to visit other DHBs over the next few months. “I’m meeting with stakeholder groups, DHB planning and funding, aged residential care and PHOs – anyone who is interested in how services for people with dementia can be improved.

“Part of my leadership brief is to share good ideas from other DHBs that might work for them locally, and to encourage consistency across the South Island by supporting person-centred care and helping them to work more in line with the shared model of care for dementia document.”

Dementia is Everybody’s Business was developed by the South Island Alliance’s Health of Older People Service Level Alliance (HOPSLA) to improve South Island services for people affected by dementia. This means all service providers across the South Island working together to ensure equitable access to high quality diagnosis, treatment and care for all people with dementia and their families, whānau and carers.

Sharon Adler, Southern DHB Health of Older People Portfolio Manager, says Dr Croucher’s visit was valuable to spread the message of Dementia is Everybody’s Business, make connections between different parts of the organisation and have the endorsement from their leadership team. “It was really inspirational and motivational for us to see how we can work together to better meet the needs of those living with dementia.”

Previously, dementia was typically diagnosed and treated in secondary care settings in New Zealand. The South Island Alliance seeks to support primary care providers to make timely dementia diagnoses, leading to better outcomes and quality of life.

Dementia is Everybody’s Business is available here. Dr Croucher’s interview is here.

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