Retirement care reaches ‘crisis point’
Depending on who you talk to, the crisis in aged care is either coming or already here.
There is even an ugly term for one aspect of it: bed-blocking.
The definition is simple enough: because of the ageing population, when elderly people end up in hospital, they often tied up beds for longer than strictly necessary because there was nowhere for them to go.
They can’t go back home, because they can’t cope alone. And if that home is a retirement village, most don’t offer nursing care. And so they stay in hospital.
And bed-blocking was getting worse, Ryman Healthcare development manager Andrew Mitchell said during a resource management hearing into a Hamilton rest-home proposal.
‘‘The lack of retirement and aged care in New Zealand is at crisis point,’’ Mitchell said.
District Health Boards’ spending on services for older people has increased twice as fast as their overall expenses over the last 10 years, according to the Ministry of Health.
But supply of quality care wasn’t keeping up with the demand, due to the closure of smaller rest homes after aged-care pay increases, Mitchell said.
‘‘Residents that cannot cope independently in their own homes are sometimes forced to live in hospitals and there is no acceptable combination providing needs-driven residential care available.
And 20,000 more New Zealanders will need residential care by is known as bedblocking.’’ 2026, according to Te Pou, a government-funded organisation.
But the term was degrading, older persons advocate Dame Peggy Koopman-Boyden said.
‘‘Blocking from who? Who has higher priority? I think it’s derogatory.’’
And it distracted from a bigger issue - that New Zealand wasn’t ready for a dramatically older population, she said.
‘‘This was all predictable. We have had projections. And if we don’t have enough resources, well, we have to try to work out our priorities and what we’re going to do about it.’’
Grey Power national president Tom O’Connor agreed the term was unhelpful. He also said Mitchell was overstating the case, but acknowledged the baby boomer generation was bulging into retirement.
There are fears a lack of appropriate retirement care in New Zealand has hit crisis point.