Urgent action is needed in the 2019 Budget to invest in dementia prevention, diagnosis and care, says Alzheimers NZ president Dr Ngaire Dixon.

Dixon was speaking at the opening of Alzheimers NZ annual conference, Tackling Dementia: It’s Everybody’s Business, and said dementia was one of New Zealand’s greatest health and social challenges which was now at a tipping point. There are nearly 70,000 New Zealanders living with dementia now and that number is expected to almost triple to 170,000 by 2050.

She said it had been disappointed that the Government, like its predecessor, had “dropped the ball on dementia care” by failing to provide new funding for services and support for the dementia community in May’s Budget.  Dixon said if the Government delayed taking action New Zealand would have difficulty ensuring people living with dementia could access adequate and consistent levels of support so they can live well.

“People living with dementia are amongst New Zealand’s most vulnerable,” said Dixon.  “They are currently being let down by a system that is marginalising them – services for people living with dementia are inadequate, delivered inconsistently across the country, and are of variable quality.

“We know that if dementia is not tackled urgently and effectively at a public health level, many other community wellbeing goals are put at risk.”

Dixon acknowledged that the country had a range of pressing and unmet health needs but said none were as likely to have the social and fiscal impact on New Zealand as the rapidly ageing population and the growing numbers of people affected by dementia.

“It’s not too late to change the game for New Zealanders living with dementia, to put in place the systems, support and services that Kiwis are going to need in coming years, and to reduce the cost burden on the country,” said Dixon.

“Inaction on dementia now means saddling future governments with an unnecessarily large multi-billion-dollar problem. We strongly urge the government to seriously consider our proposal as part of Budget 2019.”

Alzheimer NZ wants the Government to start implementing the New Zealand Framework for Dementia Care and says there are six steps that could ‘change the game’ for the dementia community:

  1. Invest in prevention and risk reduction;
  2. Intervene early to improve detection, diagnosis and support;
  3. Support people to live well;
  4. Support family carers to continue to provide care;
  5. Build age and dementia friendly communities;
  6. And establish indicators, monitor progress, and conduct research.

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