WDHB to research caring for older Maori

The Whanganui District Health Board’s (WDHB) three advisory committees recently discussed the intention to explore how elderly Maori and Pacific peoples prefer to live, and what barriers they might face if living in aged care residential homes is not their preferred choice.
“We need to know how older Maori and Pacific peoples wish to be supported when they need long-term care,” WDHB Director Maori Health Gilbert Taurua says. “So four focus groups (with one led by the WDHB) will be established across the Central Region to look at whether changes within society are leaving Maori and Pacific peoples vulnerable.
“At present very few Maori and Pacific residents live in rest homes. Traditionally they have lived with their families, but are families struggling to care for their elders due to economic and employment pressures? Do rest homes need to adapt to the meet the physical and spiritual needs of elderly Maori and Pacific residents? Are there are other options that our elders might prefer? These are some of the questions we need to consider.
 “A further concern for the health sector is the ever growing demand for health services for Maori over the age of 50 who we know have poorer health outcomes and a higher burden of chronic illness than non-Maori of the same age.
“The number of older Maori and Pacific peoples in our community is expected to rise significantly over the next 15 years with a projected increase of 115 percent in the proportion of Maori aged 65 years and over and more than 125 percent in the proportion of Pacific peoples aged 65 and over.
“It’s important to recognise that this is happening against a background where demand for aged care residential care services in the Central Region is expected to exceed capacity from 2014, and the cost of providing long-term care for those with chronic illnesses is increasingly putting pressure on the health dollar.”

Mr Taurua says as with all ethnic groups, older Maori and Pacific peoples with long-term care needs, must be encouraged to remain independent for as long as possible if they are to remain out of hospital.
“Older adults, no matter what their ethnicity, need to be encouraged to live independently within their community. The need for models of care that promote and maintain healthy ageing, manage chronic conditions, and reduce reliance on hospital based services has never been more important.”
Mr Taurua says two of the four focus groups being established will seek the views of Maori and the other two, the views of Pacific peoples. Led by Central Region DHBs Maori and Pacific directors, clinicians and providers, they will include consumers and their whanau.
The size of each focus group will vary and participants will be identified as representing the views of either Maori or Pacific peoples and an urban or rural perspective. Invitations to participate will be advertised in Central District communities.
Mr Taurua expects the focus groups to begin work in November and the information reviewed by Central Region DHBs and chief executives by mid 2012.