No promises for dementia patients as wait continues

THE Commonwealth Government will not promise northern NSW dementia patients will receive the same level of care once it has overhauled how home and community health services are delivered.

Funding for the Northern NSW Local Health District's Dementia Outreach Service was due to end on July 31 - to be replaced by funding under the new Commonwealth Home Support Program.

That date has since been stretched out to October 31, but patients, carers and workers say they need fair warning about what is to come so they can plan their futures.

As yet, it has not been forthcoming - the decisions still unmade - but Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield said on Monday an announcement was due in "early 2015".

When asked to guarantee the important outreach services currently afforded patients and carers would be maintained, Mr Fifield did not give a straight answer.

"The Department of Social Services is reviewing the range of sector support activities funded within existing aged care programs to identify and reclassify any direct service programs, and will write to service providers with more information in early 2015 about this process and arrangements going forward," he said.

Alzheimer's Australia has worked with the Federal Government to determine how to structure the new system, but NSW general manager of services Robyn Faine said no concrete decisions had been made.

The group operates the Dementia Outreach Service for the Mid North Coast.

The Northern Rivers program is run by the local health district.

Ms Faine said Alzheimer's Australia would be interested in taking over the contract for the NNSWLHD.

"We would be very happy to be a provider, if that's what the Commonwealth wanted us to do," Ms Faine said.

"But we don't know yet how the Commonwealth wants the services to run."

Ms Faines was optimistic the support services would be continued after October 31, albeit under a new structure.

"They seem very receptive in trying to work out how dementia support will fit into the new program arrangements," she said.

"I think it's on their agenda. I think their intention is to look at how they can have these services delivered."

The number of people with dementia in Australia is expected to double to almost 900,000 by 2050.

- APN NEWSDESK



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