17 Aug 2009

Plan for elderly care at home 'could increase neglect'

3:03 pm on 17 August 2009

A Canterbury lobby group fears a health board plan to help older people stay in their own homes will increase their neglect.

The Canterbury District Health Board has announced it is to begin assessing people at home by visits or telephone and will shift the focus of its home-based services from doing tasks to promoting independence.

Health Cuts Hurt chairperson and former health board member Heather Carter says keeping people in their homes would require much more home help, not less.

Ms Carter says home-based services in the region have been run down and less help is available to older people now than 10 years ago.

She fears the move will cause greater ill-treatment, abuse and neglect of the elderly.

Health board plan

Under the health board's plan, all older people will be reviewed regularly and residential care will continue to be offered to people unable to remain at home, even with support.

Without making changes, the number of beds for the elderly would need to double to 2,000 by 2020 and the district health board says that is not realistic.

The board's general manager of planning and funding, Carolyn Gullery, says it would be unsustainable to continue putting more and more people into residential care and long-stay hospital facilities.

She says evidence backs up the view that it benefits people's physical and mental well-being to stay in their own homes and be part of the community.

The plan says older people with complex needs will be assessed at home in person to help them and their families maintain independence.

Those with with less complex needs will be assessed by telephone, with follow-up face-to-face care as required.

The document adds that Canterbury has more people using community services than other regions.