“It’s touted as the Wellbeing Budget, but it seems your wellbeing doesn’t count if you’ve got dementia,” says Alzheimers Chief Executive, Catherine Hall.
Hall says the many thousands of New Zealanders living with dementia are some of the most vulnerable in the country, yet successive governments continue to ignore them.
“This government knows the massive and rapidly-rising extent of the problem; they know the human impact and the fiscal cost yet, when they have the opportunity, they do absolutely nothing to address the many, varied and serious challenges facing those people living with dementia, and their care partners.
“It seems that this government, like those before it, would like to pretend the dementia challenge doesn’t exist.”
Dementia is one of the most serious healthcare problems facing New Zealand, says Hall. She estimates the annual costs of supporting people with dementia are about the same as the combined annual costs of supporting people with cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Alzheimers New Zealand says no additional investment has been directed at specialist services for people with dementia for more than 10 years and none is projected, despite the fact the number of New Zealanders living with the condition is expected to triple over the next 30 years.
“Unless things are done differently, the cost of dementia to New Zealand will be around $5 billion per year by 2050.”
Hall maintains there are two “practical solutions” already on the table.
“There’s the New Zealand Framework for Dementia Care, drafted by the previous government and which both they and this government have chosen to largely ignore, and there’s a very simple, six-step plan that Alzheimers New Zealand developed that would have an immediate impact, both on the quality of life of people living with dementia and the rising fiscal cost.”