Aged Care in New Zealand is comprehensive and has many meanings. It refers to the help and support given to older people in their own home, in residential care, rest homes, retirement villages, nursing homes, dementia care facilities, and more.
New Zealand has over 640 registered nursing homes throughout the country, with over 31,600 people living in aged residential care.
The average age of residents is 85 and most people living in these aged care centres still have strong family relationships even though they are being cared for by others.
As with care for the elderly community in many countries, in New Zealand this sector faces many challenges.
Here’s a comprehensive look at some of the key services aged care provides for people in New Zealand, as well the issues this industry is facing, and some of the top products now available to help seniors.
Key services in aged care
There are a wide range of key services seniors living in an aged care facility require in order to boost and maintain their quality of life.
Health and ageing issues such as not being able to hear well, feeling isolated and lonely, and having impaired movement or speech, or suffering from a stroke are just some of the challenges seniors face.
Some of the specialist services required in aged care in New Zealand include:
According to Hear-it.org, the number of seniors in New Zealand who require help with hearing loss is expected to double in the coming 50 years.
It’s estimated that over 22% of people 65 and older in New Zealand currently suffer from hearing loss, and this is expected to rise.
Leading experts have suggested that the New Zealand government should get involved in funding hearing aids for seniors because of this.
Quality occupational therapists (OTs) in long-term care homes help residents engage with daily living.
They do this by helping them perform tasks like self care and help them to maintain autonomy and mobility. OTs also often assist residents participating in leisure activities like painting or gardening.
The goals of an OT can vary depending on the needs of the resident, but they often revolve around increasing a person’s independence, as well as their sense of accomplishment and purpose.
OTs are involved in planning and directing treatment and therapy, and can carry out assessments of living spaces in order to help clients adjust their environment to better suit their needs.
Psychologists are another integral component to resident care in seniors homes.
While psychologists don’t play a strong role in New Zealand’s nursing homes, they should in the future. Research from Australia shows that psychologists can be key in helping to deal with behaviour issues in nursing homes. Their work has been shown to result in:
- ten times fewer admissions to hospital
- half the number of visits by a physician
- three times less side effects from drugs
- three quarters fewer visits from a geriatric psychologist
Experts are calling for an increased presence and use of psychologists in aged care who are properly trained to help seniors face their unique challenges.
Ageing can be painful and uncomfortable. Physiotherapists working in aged care help assess and diagnose residents’ pain and their mobility.
Sometimes residents are unable to communicate in words due to dementia, a stroke, or some other health ailment.
A physiotherapist can help assess pain and determine what adjustments need to be made for residents, in order to enhance their lives and enable them to carry out their daily activities.
Rehabilitation exercises and movements that promote mobility are often used to help residents maintain their quality of life.
Some residents in aged care have suffered a stroke and need therapy to regain their speech capacities. Others are facing troubles swallowing and drinking fluids due to ageing and disease.
Speech therapists help both groups of people to communicate orally and be able to eat and drink. Capabilities can’t always be regained but in most cases, the work of a speech therapist in an aged home can make a significant difference.
Key aged care industry issues
Aged care workers in New Zealand, as in other places, face some tough challenges.
Heavy workloads, stress, and limited career growth are pushing many workers to call for change.
The effects of the pandemic have made matters worse. With additional health and safety precautions to attend to with older residents and visitors, many people are sounding the alarm.
Some sources say up to half of female medical specialists now report feeling burned out.
While New Zealand has mandated ratios for staff-to-resident numbers in aged care, it could be time that more is done to alleviate pending problems.
Key products in aged care
Residents of nursing homes in New Zealand are reliant on many devices to get through daily life. Older people in care facilities often have the need for additional support with their health, including vision, hearing, and transportation help.
Immobility is often an issue as you age. Mobility providers in New Zealand have a full selection of scooters, power chairs, wheelchairs, crutches and walking sticks.
They can also provide residents with devices to help with support in the bathroom and shower, and well as in the bedroom and seating areas.
Grab rails can suction onto walls for additional support and be screwed in or bolted down.
Ramps at door thresholds, making moving from one room to another easier and tripping less likely, are also available.
Facilities with safety lines also make the floor easier to see and navigate, which can be key.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health Hearing Aid Subsidy Scheme helps seniors afford costly hearing aids.
With up to $511.11 provided per hearing aid to adults over the age of 16 who are experiencing permanent hearing loss, this can be a life saver.
To obtain a hearing aid, an assessment needs to be done by an approved assessor. This can help a resident learn what type of hearing loss they have. Following this, a recommendation on which product to get is made.
A written quote is provided and the assessor can make an application for funding assistance. Once a person receives their hearing aids, a formal fitting is done, and a trial period allows you to see if the hearing aids are working as they should. Final adjustments and a decision is then made to see if the hearing aids are meeting the person’s needs.
Your eyesight is another sense that wanes as you age. Low vision can make it difficult for a person to read, write and perceive depths.
Problems seeing at a distance can make driving difficult with street signs hard to read, and central spots in a person’s vision can block the scene almost entirely.
Having devices on hand that increase the available light in a room can help with reading, as can magnifiers.
Headlamps can help when navigating on foot or in a wheelchair, and sunglasses that control glare can help clarity.
There are many tools and tactics professionals can use with residents of aged care to help them see better and to navigate their surroundings safely.
Ageing is a fact of life, and being able to age gracefully can be a gift. With the proper support, seniors in New Zealand can enjoy a pleasing quality of life in nursing homes and other aged care facilities.
More staff will be needed as the population ages and proper care will need to be taken to ensure employees do not burnout.
Aged care faces a changing and evolving future in New Zealand that presents many challenges.
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