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Healthcare New Zealand is to study the feasibility of "community care cottages" in Central Otago, designed to house people living with dementia, rather than having to move them to residential care facilities in Dunedin.
The project was yesterday selected by the Southern District Health Board to receive a $5000 grant to pay for a feasibility study, after being named the overall winner in the SDHB’s 2018 Southern Innovation Challenge.
The event, in its sixth year, attracted 33 entries and distributed $50,000 in grants after being opened up to private providers within the health sector for the first time.
Health New Zealand health of older people programme manager Vanessa Pullan said the cottages would be small, supported-living homes with four-to-five bedrooms and shared communal facilities.
The cottages, which were already a success in the United Kingdom and Australia, would allow people with dementia to live "as independently as possible in a home-like atmosphere", she said.
It also meant families would not have to make the long return journey from Central Otago to see their loved ones.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan, in a letter of support for the proposal, recalled one elderly Alexandra man who drove to and from Dunedin each week to see his wife, who was receiving dementia care in the city.
"That is a 400km round trip that this 70-year-old drives every week and has done for several years, just so he can see his wife," Mr Cadogan wrote.
"I almost wept on hearing his story."
Mrs Pullan said demand for services in Central was expected to increase as the population there aged.
Statistics New Zealand projected the number of people aged over 65 in Central would nearly double, from 4900 to 8500, over the next 25 years.
Alzheimer’s New Zealand also projected rates of dementia, which were growing, would hit 2.9% of the population by 2050.
International research showed increased engagement, and decreased distress and behavioural challenges, when dementia patients moved into care cottages, she said.
Other winners yesterday were:
• Chief Executive Officer Award: Virtual Health Clinics in Dunedin’s Antidote Pharmacies, which involved the installation of virtual health assessment booths in all six Antidote pharmacies across Dunedin, linking directly to Maihealth, a cloud-based health service run by Dr Lance O’Sullivan.
• Patient Priority Award: Dunedin Hospital Clinical Skills Lab, a fit-for-purpose remodel of seminar rooms to establish a realistic single ward bed environment to aid simulation teaching.
• Staff Priority Award: Strengthening partnerships in a clinical setting, to support productive and collaborative working relationships between healthcare staff within the wider Southern DHB and its partners.
• Community Priority Award: Video tools informing patients of invasive examinations. The Radiology Service with Southland Hospital will produce videos about common diagnostic procedures, including scans by ultrasound, CT and MRI, for patients to watch before their scheduled appointments.