Fears for elderly as home-care hours cut

Grey Power is concerned a reduction in home-care services might be adversely affecting some elderly people who previously received a higher level of service, Grey Power New Zealand health spokesman Dick Stark, of Gore, says.

"Over the past few months there appears to be concern being levelled at reductions in the hours available to those people who need the services of home carers," Mr Stark said.

"This service was initiated to enable more people to stay in their own homes instead of being placed in rest-homes," he said.

However, it appeared many of the people affected by the reduction of care were not prepared to complain, he said.

Mr Stark also believed many of the elderly affected by the changes were too proud to admit they were struggling.

Mr Stark said the issue was "fragile" as it had been intimated that if health funding was kept at its present level it would eventually "bankrupt the government" so reviews were necessary.

"As with all benefits, unfortunately there are too many abusing the system and these are the people who are being unfair to genuine receivers and also to their communities," he said.

"There are many [who], if deprived of this care, will need to be put in rest-home care and it is doubtful if this service could cater for such an influx," he said.

Southland District Health Board general manager of planning and funding David Chrisp, of Invercargill, said the SDHB had been looking at the number of hours being allocated for home-based care for the elderly.

The SDHB was investigating making reductions if possible, Mr Chrisp said.

"We are mainly focusing on the relatively low levels of need to see if [for instance] one hour of housework a week [could be allocated to a person] instead of two, or if in fact they need any at all," Mr Chrisp said.

In some cases, people had been allocated services when they came out of hospital and that need had not been reviewed, therefore they might be receiving a service they did not need, he said.

While the SDHB was committed to providing home-based care for those that needed it, the authority also needed to cut back on areas where services were not needed, he said.

HealthCare NZ Gore branch area manager Virginia McCall said the branch had seen a significant cut back in the number of hours being allocated to clients, as the SDHB struggled to make the books balance.

Mrs McCall said the assessment criteria had become a lot more stringent - some existing clients had home help hours cut from three to one and a half.

In the past, the Gore branch had always been advertising for new staff, but now the business had prospective employees on a waiting list and even the more-experienced staff were keen to pick up more work, she said.

Mr Stark said Grey Power would like to hear from any elderly person who had been adversely affected by the changes.

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