21 Aug 2018

Ageing population puts pressure on dementia beds

7:15 am on 21 August 2018

Dementia support workers say a shortage of dementia beds in Canterbury is only expected to get worse.

Ryman Healthcare's profit rose 8.4 percent

Photo: 123RF

More than 60,000 New Zealanders live with dementia, but that is expected to triple by 2050, putting huge pressure on care providers.

Dementia Canterbury spokesperson Darral Campbell said it was getting harder and harder to find dementia beds.

"We hear that people can't easily book too far in advance, and that sometimes if there is a bed available it is not in an area where they live," she said.

"There are beds, but whether they actually give people the choices that they need is something else."

Ms Campbell said this put incredible pressure on families and caregivers, who had very few places to go.

Figures from the Canterbury District Health Board show that 96 percent of the 800 dementia rest home beds available were taken.

The DHB has called it the area of "highest risk" in aged residential care.

South Island DHB Alliance dementia lead Matthew Croucher said an ageing population was making the problem worse.

"The biggest trend over time is the ageing population," he said.

"The older people get the higher proportion of people there are that are living with dementia, therefore a higher proportion that might need specialist care."

Mr Croucher said while this a nationwide problem, some cities such as Christchurch, as well as Nelson, were now under incredible pressure and multiple things needed to be done to deal with the problem.

He said this included people being diagnosed earlier, and rest homes upping their supply of dementia beds.

Ryman Healthcare provides 170 dementia rest home beds across four of its Christchurch villages.

Spokesperson David King said demand for beds was high.

"Our care centres in general run at an average of 97 percent [capacity] all of the time, so we are busy and we expect to get busier," he said.

Mr King said Ryman Healthcare was planning to create more dementia beds in Christchurch.

"We have built 60 in the last three years, and we have plans for another village with more beds in that," he said.

"There is a lot of demand ahead."

But time is ticking and Mr Croucher said if nothing was done soon, the consequences would be dire.

"If services in New Zealand, aged residential care or otherwise, look substantially the same in how they are offered, how they are funded, and how they are organised in ten years time, as they do today, then we're sunk," he said.

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