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The Coalition Government is ignoring the needs of older New Zealanders, particularly those with dementia, says the kaitiaki of the Dementia Mate Wareware Action Plan.

Budget 2024 contained nothing of significance to support the health needs of older New Zealanders, who are the largest users of the under-pressure health system, and who regularly fall through the cracks of a fragmented service that makes accessing consistently good care very difficult, says chief executive of Alzheimers NZ, Catherine Hall.

She was speaking on behalf of the co-authors of the Dementia Mate Wareware Action Plan, Alzheimers NZ, Dementia NZ, the NZ Dementia Foundation and the Mate Wareware Advisory Rōpū.

“Budget 2024 offers little hope for improved services for people living with dementia and their care partners, who deserve better healthcare support,” Ms Hall said.

She acknowledges the Coalition Agreement has identified older people as needing additional political focus and she notes the Health Select Committee’s review into aged care.

“But actions, which so far we’ve not seen much of, speak louder than words.”

International dementia report released: NZ’s lack of progress noted

She points to the latest Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) From Plan to Impact report that charts the progress WHO member states, including New Zealand, are making on developing and implementing national dementia plans.

Once again New Zealand gets a ‘must do better’ scorecard, Ms Hall said.

“We’re ahead of many countries in that we’ve actually got a Plan. It ticks all the relevant boxes and, if implemented, would be life-changing for thousands and thousands of New Zealanders.

The kaitiaki group has long called for the Government to implement the Dementia Mate Wareware Action Plan designed to better support the rapidly growing number of New Zealanders being diagnosed with dementia.

The Plan also promotes risk reduction strategies to help minimise dementia prevalence as the country’s population ages.

“Dementia poses a major system-wide health threat,” Ms Hall said.

“It’s a terminal condition for which there’s no cure, and for which we can expect case numbers in New Zealand to jump by 240 per cent in coming years.

“Imagine if cancer, or stroke, or heart attack prevalence was to jump by 240 per cent – that would elicit a very rapid policy and political response, but the lack of one for dementia reinforces the Government’s continued lack of interest in New Zealand’s older people.”

She says the rapid rise in dementia cases will add more pressure and cost to the already-stressed health system, requiring more and more aged care resources and beds, and distracting the Government from progressing other health system needs.

“When the average daily cost of Aged Residential Care is $373 a day, and an acute hospital bed costs $1,700 a day, why wouldn’t you implement a Plan that enables people to live at home for longer and enjoy community support services at a cost of just $11.11 a day?”

Download the Making the Case document developed in collaboration with NZ Council of Christian Social Services