New respite care for dementia sufferers

CASSANDRA POKONEY
Last updated 05:00 04/07/2014

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New dementia respite care programmes have been set up in the south to cope with demand from increasingly stressed caregivers.

The Southern District Health Board has awarded contracts to Good Partners and Presbyterian Support to run the programmes in Invercargill, Te Anau and Central Otago.

The board's health of older people and disability senior portfolio manager Sharon Adler said the programmes were set up after the board gauged a significant need in the community.

The region's population was aging, and with more older people in the community, it followed that there were larger numbers of people with dementia.

The health board had about 4000 people on its home and community support books, and while some of those may not be on the books because of dementia, most of them had some form of cognitive impairment, she said.

Funding to run the programmes, about $100,000, came from the Ministry of Health which had determined a nationwide need for more respite services.

The funding covers 12 people to attend a centre-based day programme in Invercargill one day a week, three people to attend a home-based programme in Te Anau one day a week, and six people to attend two home-based programmes in Alexandra (three in each home) one day a week.

"The hope is that by providing this respite it will lessen the stress on caregivers and allow people to remain home for longer," she said.

Southland had about 75 secure unit beds, Adler said. Census figures show the number of people aged 65 years and older has grown steadily in Southland since 2006, moving from 11,946 then to 14,613 in 2013.

Age Concern Southland manager Janette Turner said "every fourth person" her organisation saw had some sort of cognitive impairment and the number of stressed caregivers accessing various Age Concern services was also increasing.

Presbyterian Support Services for Older People director Julia Russell said demand for beds at Peacehaven's secure unit was "quite seasonal" and dependent on assessments from the health board.

Meanwhile, Rowena Jackson Retirement Village is refurbishing its dementia care unit.

Village manager Trudy Shepard said all 26 rooms would be refurbished, while lounges, dining and common areas would also get a makeover.

The redevelopment would include design features that help create a positive environment for residents with dementia, such as tactile surfaces, bright colours and special lighting. "The aim is to make the environment as comfortable as possible for residents and also to help them navigate their way around more easily," Shepard said.

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People with cognitive impairment often did not pick up on the same visual clues as other people so the village hoped to make the environment as bright, interesting and varied as possible, she said.

There are presently about 50,000 people with dementia in New Zealand, a number expected to triple to 150,000 by 2050, she said.

- The Southland Times

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