Are you ready for an ageing New Zealand?

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It’s a fact — New Zealanders are living longer with more complex health needs. Whatever shortcomings might occasionally be revealed in our excellent New Zealand health care system, people will continue to require care when they are no longer able to care for themselves.

“I don’t know where to start” — is a common statement from families who are facing the need to place a loved one in care for the first time.

There is often considerable pressure when there’s been a quick discharge from hospital, or a home assessment has determined the need for urgent care.

And there can be the added complexities of how to access subsidy and finance information. You may be unaware of them, but there are a number of sources for this information, so seek out the best advice possible.

The decision to consider care options starts at home. Often it is infrequent visitors who are the first to notice changes in your loved one.

This can range from their inability to do normal activities with ease, worsening medical conditions worsen, changes in mobility or occasional falls, more prominent memory impairment, or risky behaviour such as leaving jugs boiling or baths running.

It is important you recognise these changes and record them with their GP, as early conversations can lead to early care intervention, either in the home or through supported living.

The industry says that families often report having known about the changes in their loved one, but they simply classify them as the inevitable result of getting older, rather than the deterioration it clearly advertises.

This can cause considerable grief when their loved one has a serious injury at home because they are unable to cope.

The first step is asking the GP for a referral for assessment. This referral is made to your local DHB team, who will make an appointment to meet with you and your loved one to further discuss your observations and concerns.

The level of care might be classified as resthome, hospital, secure dementia or psychogeriatric care.

It is vital at this stage to ask lots of questions around funding and government subsidy support, as it can be a lengthy process.

At assessment time, you should be given a Residential Care Subsidy booklet, which contains valuable information including asset thresholds and how to apply for the government subsidy.

Obtaining a subsidy is always the responsibility of the person receiving care or their family — not the care provider.

You should be given a list of facilities offering the level of care required and it is up to you and your loved one to find the appropriate placement that suits your needs.

Though a daunting task under pressure of time, you are best to avoid rushed decisions that overlook what is important to your loved one. After all, it is to become their new home.

In the next issue we will examine important factors to consider in evaluating care placement options.

Melissa Harris

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