Health: Next government needs to tackle dementia crisis

There’s a rapidly growing number of New Zealanders being diagnosed with dementia and insufficient funding for community services to support them.

The next government needs to move very quickly to prevent a dementia health crisis in New Zealand.

That’s the message Alzheimers NZ has delivered to all political parties as they finalise their election manifestoes ahead of the October general election.

“The crisis has two pinchpoints,” chief exective, Catherine Hall, said.

“Firstly, there’s a rapidly growing number of New Zealanders being diagnosed with dementia and secondly, there’s woefully inadequate funding for the community services needed to support them.”

Dementia is predicted to cost the country nearly $6 billion a year by 2050. It will hit Māori, Pacific and Asian communities hardest, creating significant health inequities.

“Most New Zealanders living with dementia can’t access the medical and health support they need now,” Ms Hall said.

“They’re left to fend for themselves because there’s just no money to meet the ever-growing demand for dementia services.”

Ms Hall said the situation is fast reaching a tipping point.

“We can’t cope with the demand now; what will we do when dementia numbers almost triple in coming years, as they’re expected to?”

She said the current government has been sympathetic to the issues facing the demantia sector “but the next government needs to really step up and do much more and better for what is a very marginalised and vulnerable group of people.

“There is a national Dementia Action Plan that will address most of the issues, and it has Cabinet backing which is great, but that’s nowhere near enough.

“That Plan needs to be properly funded and implemented, and we need it now.”