Speech – New Zealand Government
As you all know, the theme of this years World Mental Health Day is mental health and older adults. This makes me particularly pleased to be able to speak to you today because, as both Minister for Senior Citizens and Associate Minister …Jo Goodhew
10 October, 2013
Speech: World Mental Health Day 2013
E aku Rangatira, Tēnā koutou katoa, Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou
Good afternoon everyone. It’s a pleasure to be able to speak to you today at this event to mark World Mental Health Day. And of course it’s also Mental Health Awareness Week.
I would like to thank Professor Max Abbott for inviting me to join you today.
As you all know, the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘mental health and older adults’. This makes me particularly pleased to be able to speak to you today because, as both Minister for Senior Citizens and Associate Minister of Health, the health of older people is a subject close to my heart.
It will come of no surprise to any of you here for me to say that our population is ageing. People in New Zealand are living longer lives and, even better, our older people are enjoying better health.
The older people and kaumātua in our lives have a wealth of skills, experience and knowledge to offer to society. It is a challenge for this Government, and indeed for New Zealand as a whole, to help realise this potential and support people to live full and independent lives in their older age.
We all know that along with a longer life expectancy come some increased risks of certain age-related health conditions, such as arthritis, chronic respiratory problems, cardiac disease, stroke, and dementia.
Two years ago, an estimated 48,000 people in New Zealand had dementia. By 2030, that number will be almost double. Most will be older people, with around a third of people aged 90 or over having dementia. Currently, around 2,700 people with dementia are supported in aged residential care, and this number will grow.
Addressing the challenge of dementia is something that the Government is taking very seriously and I would like to spend some time talking about what we are doing.
To encourage investment in dementia beds, Budget 2011 increased funding for aged residential dementia care by $10 million per annum, with another $7.5 million per year added in Budget 2012 and $3 million per year in Budget 2013.
But, while we need to ensure a safety net of high quality residential dementia care, I want to see people with dementia supported to maintain their independence, and be cared for in the community for as long as possible. To achieve this we need to see early diagnosis, access to and awareness of support services, and a well-trained aged care workforce.
That is why Budget 2013 also provided funding of $1.2 million over three years for dementia training for health care workers, and $2 million over three years to support dementia awareness programmes and assistance for clinical teams in early detection of dementia.
Another important area of work is the development of dementia care pathways. For the 2013/14 year, the Minister of Health, Hon Tony Ryall, has asked district health boards to develop dementia care pathways to support people with dementia and help to maximise their independence and wellbeing.
A dementia care pathway places the focus of care on a patient’s overall journey, from the point of diagnosis to end of life care. The goal is to deliver seamless, integrated care throughout each treatment stage rather than care provided in frequently disjointed separate services.
The Ministry of Health has led a national project in partnership with DHBs, non-government organisations, people with dementia, and other groups across the country to create a national framework to guide the development of these pathways.
I have talked about dementia because there is a lot happening and because it fits well with the today’s topic. Dementia is a good example of a condition that can require a combined response from the domains of both aged care and mental health treatment. And we all know that physical health conditions are often complicated by mental health and addiction issues and vice versa.
But, my contribution here today would not be complete without talking about the Government’s priorities for the mental health of older people. To this end, my colleague Todd McClay, the Associate Minister of Health with responsibility for mental health, has asked me to speak to you about what’s happening in this area.
The Government’s action plan for mental health and addictions services was published in December 2012. It’s called Rising to the Challenge, and it sets the policy direction for improvements to mental health and addiction services to 2017.
Older people with high-prevalence conditions are one of the four priority population groups in Rising to the Challenge. I particularly like the message of the plan’s overarching goal for the mental health of older people, which is “Delivering increased access for our growing older population while respecting and protecting their positive contribution”.
The expected result of the plan is: “improved outcomes for older people with high-prevalence conditions through expanded access to integrated, effective mental health and addiction responses and decreased waiting times”.
The plan acknowledges that older people have a lot to offer the communities in which they live. However, mental health and addiction issues in older people can prevent this positive contribution and significantly reduce older people’s quality of life. Seen in the context of our growing older population, improving mental health and addiction services and access for older people will be increasingly important over the coming years.
The plan sets out seven priority actions related to the mental health and addiction needs of older people. These actions aim to ensure that New Zealand has a connected and coordinated health service that recognises and responds early and effectively to mental health and addiction issues in older people, while optimising their ability to live in the home and community of their choice and contribute positively to that community.
Accountability for most of these actions lies with the sector – DHBs, primary care, and NGOs that deliver mental health and addiction services. The Ministry will support the sector to deliver these actions, and will monitor progress against the actions.
I was pleased recently to come across a 6-page feature in New Zealand Doctor on depression in the elderly. The article reported, however, that while treatment is as effective in older patients as in younger adults, the condition is often under-recognised and under-treated. This is obviously a concern, and reinforces the importance of this year’s World Mental Health Day theme of ‘mental health and older adults’.
Rising to the Challenge also seeks for mental health and addictions services to proactively ensure that an older person’s family or whānau are involved in their recovery. This is important in helping to reduce the older person’s social isolation and encouraging them to manage their own condition and wellness. And at this point I would just like to note that addressing the social isolation of older people is one of my priorities as the Minister for Senior Citizens.
On that note, it is probably a good time to remember that the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is “Connect”. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this theme from the Mental Health Foundation later this afternoon, but I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you all to think about ways you can connect with an older person in your life. The Mental Health Foundation’s website has plenty of ideas for how we can connect with each other in ways that enrich our lives, and don’t necessarily involve Facebook!
The idea of promoting connectedness is a nice note for me to finish on, because it really sums up a central goal of many of the initiatives I’ve spoken about today.
Like everyone, older people need to have meaningful social connections in their lives. The connections need to be amongst the services and aged care workers as well to ensure that the sector is providing the coordinated, high-quality care that our older people need.
Thank you, and I hope you all enjoy today’s celebration.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.