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Policy settings should take an holistic view of the ageing healthcare journey Post Cover Image

Meeting the health system needs of Aotearoa New Zealand’s rapidly ageing population won’t be achieved just by restructuring and re-funding the country’s aged residential care and community support services, says Alzheimers NZ. 

The organisation was responding to a Health NZ review of aged care funding and service models. 

The review looked at how aged residential care beds and home and community support models are funded and provided. 

It is the precursor to designing new funding and service delivery models in that part of the aged care health sector. 

Alzheimers NZ chief executive, Catherine Hall, agree those two areas are critical parts of the aged care sector. 

But, she says, looked at in isolation, they paint only a small part of a much bigger and more complex whānau-centric picture. 

She says making policy and funding decisions based solely on the needs of those two areas won’t solve the wider sectors’ fundamental problems. 

“We need a fully integrated continuum of care for Aotearoa New Zealand’s ageing populations – a continuum that recognises that most older people, including those with dementia mate wareware, live at home. 

“That model of care needs to support older people to continue to live at home for as long as possible, before their health, age and other circumstances require them to access expensive-to-fund secondary services like aged care facilities.” 

Ms Hall says the Aged Care Commissioner made this very point in her recent report in which she stated that Aotearoa New Zealand needs an integrated action plan for the health of older people. 

“The Commissioner said that integrated plan must include primary and community care, residential care and secondary care, and she says the system needs to better manage the transitions between these care categories.” 

By carving off and focusing solely on the aged care beds and the home and community support sectors, health policymakers risk costly unintended consequences, while designing a funding and services model that won’t be fit for purpose, Ms Hall says. 

“We need to take an holistic view of the wider ageing issue. 

“We need to start at the point where ageing and health issues intersect and begin to become an issue, and plot the whole ageing healthcare journey from that standpoint. 

“Then we can design policies, funding models and service delivery options with that whole continuum of care in mind, not just bits of it,” Ms Hall says.