Respite care for elderly lacking

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 10/01/2014

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Cases of "granny dumping" are not apparent in the top of the South Island, but a retirement village operator says there is a lack of short-stay respite care beds for elderly people.

"Granny dumping" is a term used to describe the practice of leaving frail elderly people at hospitals, often by ill-prepared relatives heading off on their summer holidays.

District health board officials in the North Island are aware of the practice, and fear it could become more prevalent as the elderly population rises.

Nelson Age Concern elder abuse and neglect prevention adviser Jess Breeze said she had heard of some North Island cases.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the emergency department at Nelson Hospital was not aware of any granny dumping occurring locally.

Mr Fleming said there was strong social work support in the emergency department, and every effort would be made to arrange family support or safe accommodation if an elderly person was left at the hospital.

Nelson Age Concern manager Sue Tilby said that during the festive season, Age Concern typically dealt with an increased number of families who inquired about putting their elderly relatives in residential care.

"We do find at this time of year some families come in from out of town, get all concerned and want to do something permanent for their family members."

She said some were disturbed by the way their relatives were living.

Ms Tilby said placing elderly people in rest homes was often seen as "the easy option", but was acceptable as long as it was what the elderly person wanted.

Integrity Care Group owns the Stillwater Gardens retirement village, and is planning to build a $50 million village named Olive Estate in Richmond's Wensley Rd.

Company director Kristin Nimmo said Stillwater Gardens had a contract with the NMDHB to provide one of three respite beds in the Nelson-Marlborough region dedicated to short-term care. The other beds are in Blenheim and Motueka.

"There is, in our opinion, a huge lack of respite availability for elderly people with dementia and people under 65 with physical disability," said Mrs Nimmo.

"We discuss this issue regularly with the DHB, and would welcome the opportunity to assist in trying to meet this market."

She said she admired the people who looked after their elderly loved ones, some of whom had very little support.

Ryman Healthcare runs the 165-bed Ernest Rutherford retirement village in Stoke. Ryman's corporate affairs manager David King said yesterday that Ernest Rutherford was not funded for public respite care, but if the NMDHB or a private family approached the village requesting care for a patient, it would help if space was available.

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"Ernest Rutherford has space at present, and did have over Christmas. However, this changes all the time, depending on demand.

"Demand has been consistently high as the population ages."

Mr Fleming said there had been no reports that the three respite care beds were full or overbooked this summer.

The board also offered home-based support packages and day care programmes, and, depending on the needs of the individual and the family, these could be a better option.

- The Nelson Mail

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