Home-based care cuts make no sense

Recent cuts to home-based care services in Southland have caused great distress for the elderly. A Grey Power Southland petition to the Southern DHB has collected almost 9,000 signatures in 6 weeks.

The petition calls for the DHB to restore service cuts made to Royal District Nursing Services, which saw some services cut in half.

The cutbacks are illogical given that demand for home-based care will skyrocket over the coming years as the elderly population in the south expands. There are already almost 12,000 Southlanders aged over 70, with almost 3,000 of these people aged 85+.

Not only are home-based care service cuts putting individuals at risk, but they accelerate the likelihood of an elderly person being forced into a residential care facility.

Pushing people towards residential care facilities isn’t a good look for a DHB, particularly one that continues to run large deficits. Subsidies for residential care are far more expensive than helping an elderly person stay in their own home.

The Southern DHB provides a subsidy of around $1,065 per week for someone in an aged residential care facility. By comparison, mandated pay rates for care workers range from $20.50 to $25.50 per hour. Clearly you can pay for a number of care hours (even after factoring in travel charges and administrative fees) before helping the individual remain at home costs more than paying for a bed in a residential care facility.

In a 2012 study, I found that home-based care is so cost-effective that an elderly person is likely to be forced into long-term residential care for clinical reasons, long before the move becomes the most economic option.

Along with the financial advantages of home-based care, it is also important to consider the social side of providing such services. Home-based care is designed to ensure that the elderly can comfortably achieve day-to-day tasks necessary for maintaining their health and home.

Older people generally prefer to live in their own homes for as long as possible because it allows them to enjoy familiar surrounds and better maintain social networks.

Our elders deserve to live with grace and dignity.

Let’s make health happen.

Vote Benje Patterson for Southern DHB, Southland constituency. Follow my candidacy page on Facebook to stay in the loop of campaign updates.

Authorised by Benje Patterson, 5 Ashenhurst Way, Lower Shotover, Queenstown.