Challenge to ODHB home help change

Dunedin providers of home help for the elderly will "endeavour to challenge" the Otago and Southland district health boards' process in cutting housework help, Presbyterian Support Otago chief executive Gillian Bremner says.

The health boards confirmed on Monday they would no longer pay for housework help for those requiring only that service, saving about $4 million a year.

Those getting more than one and-a half hours' help would be reassessed, probably by telephone.

Families were concerned a telephone conversation would not give a true picture of an elderly person's situation.

Dale Lovett's said her 82-year-old mother, who needs a walking frame and is extremely independent, might give the impression she could cope without the help.

"I think sometimes they like to think they are better than they are."

Taking away any level of support from the elderly made it harder for them to retain the independence they valued, she said.

"It means someone else has to do it.

"It is an extra burden on the elderly and an extra burden on their families."

Carers Society Otago senior community worker Susan Easterbrook said older people were very amenable and might not realise the impact it could have on their family.

Lynne Flewitt said her 71-year-old mother's health meant doing housework was not possible and her mother was scared her help might be cut.

"It's an awful strain and stress.

"The fact they put this in place for people like mum to stay in their homes; now they're going to pull the rug out."

Ms Bremner said there was a significant amount of anxiety among families and support workers about what the decision meant.

"We hope to halt the process.

"We do believe the DHB has a duty of care and we'll endeavour to challenge them."

Providers were concerned the decision could have been made with much less haste and more consideration of individual need.

Support should not be cut without an assessment being done, she said.

Any kind of assessment should not be done without a family member or support person there.

Age Concern was advising anyone who received a letter telling them their help would be cut off to demand a face-to-face assessment for an accurate view of their situation.

Most could not afford to pay for the services themselves.

PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said the cost-cutting put home-support workers' jobs at risk.

"They also have to deal with the reality of the Governments cuts, the distressed elderly people who are having support they rely on withdrawn," Ms Pilott said.


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