Elder care fails in Tairawhiti

And as social isolation sets in elderly people are becoming more removed from their communities.

And as social isolation sets in elderly people are becoming more removed from their communities.

File picture

ELDER care in Gisborne is not just at a minimum but often below basic standards, says Age Concern Gisborne CEO Frances Toroa.

She sees daily examples of how senior citizens are becoming more detached from their communities, with social isolation the leading cause of depression.

Ms Toroa says Government funding has dwindled over the years but their work load had increased. Their main support comes from private benefactors.

“Things are random at the moment with regard to elderly care. It is largely hit and miss, with a growing number of people over 65 who are not having all their basic needs met.

“We’re trying our best as a little organisation but it’s a minefield.”

Twelve thousand elderly people live here. Senior citizens who needed help were not going to pick up the phone and request it, and Age Concern was restricted in how they could help, said Ms Toroa.

Often they were approached by concerned family or members of the community but many were falling through the cracks.

“There is a huge gap.”

Being able to re-engage elderly back into the community was as simple as someone regularly visiting them and having a conversation over a cup of tea.

Matching volunteers to seniors

Accredited Visiting Service Co-ordinator Cody Allen matches up volunteers to visit senior citizens who have no family to help them.

But a lot of people were too shy to self-refer, he said.

Ms Toroa said Age Concern was restricted in how they could assist.

“We can‘t refer these clients straight to the crisis team, we have to have a GP referral. And if they don’t want to see a doctor then nothing more can happen.”

Examples of poor elder care included a big problem in Gisborne of elderly men in social housing being extorted for money and/or shelter.

Ms Toroa was also concerned about the nutrition of Meals on Wheels -- the daily delivery service of a main meal to the elderly. Since the end of last year meals have been prepared in Auckland, frozen and then sent to Gisborne where they are reheated in the hospital kitchen before being delivered by volunteers.

A lack of support for elderly drivers has also been in the spotlight. A recent Automobile Association offer to give senior drivers in New Zealand a free “coaching” session was unavailable here because there are no AA driving instructors on the East Coast.

Ms Toroa said senior drivers are an unmonitored group who could benefit immensely from refresher courses.

With changes to road rules, sometimes all elderly drivers needed was a quick course to get their confidence back up, she said.

They used to run these through Age Concern until a few years ago, when funding was cut.

Having a car was an essential part of day to day life, she said.

“If you take away someone’s car, you take away their independence and this can lead to social isolation, which leads to loneliness, which leads to depression.”

Elder care has gotten worse

Ms Toroa says the issue of elder care had got worse since the end of GPs who used to follow people through their lives. Some still existed, and were wonderful, but they had largely been replaced by a business model where a doctor, usually not the same one you saw last time, could offer a patient only a 15-minute time slot and sometimes not for a few days, she said.

That was not enough time to build rapport and open up a conversation about concerns around driving ability or mental health issues like depression.

On top of that, there was also the financial aspect of seeing a doctor.

“When you are only living on the pension, $17.50 is a lot.”

Age Concern Year 3 student social worker Catherine Utting said she asked MP Anne Tolley about extra funding for the elderly and was told the Government’s focus was on children,

“But there are 12,000 elderly people living in the Tairawhiti region who need help too,” said Mrs Utting.

“If you take one thing away from them they will crumble.

She felt younger generations were not interacting enough with their elders.

Age Concern social worker Katie Macrae knows of a 90-year-old man who drives the Coast road twice a week to get his supplies.

If his car was taken away from him, how would he get his groceries, go to an appointment and maintain his independence?

“The further you go up the Coast, the more problems there are,” she said.

There are no transport systems in Gisborne to provide a safety net to catch drivers no longer deemed able to drive.

“Thank God for the Sunshine Bus Service,” Ms Toroa says.

Bus schedules sporadic

If it were not for the door-to-door service offered by the volunteer-run organisation, many elderly people would be stuck at home, she said. City bus schedules were sporadic and only of use to people who lived close to bus stops.

While Ms Toroa thinks it is a potentially dangerous situation having unmonitored elderly drivers on the roads, police say it is not a major problem here.

Road policing supervisor Sergeant Dean Plowman said Tairawhiti Police had only a handful of queries every year regarding elderly drivers and had very few calls from the public about driving behaviour of the elderly.

“Of course, with an ageing population we will start to have more elderly drivers, but the majority of these motorists are safe and experienced road users.”

Ms Toroa has elderly people confide in her that their driving is not the best but buses do not go down their road. So how were they supposed to carry their heavy groceries home, get to a blood test appointment or see their GP?

Mrs Utting says we need to respect elderly drivers more and remember we are all going to get old.

Both agree that socialisation is a key area to improve the mental health and loneliness affecting the elderly.

If police feel an elderly driver is unfit to be driving, they can request through LTNZ that a driver undergo a medical review if they believe there is a risk to other road users.

Sgt Plowman said Tairawhiti Police do not actively monitor elderly drivers in the community.

But they do respond to calls from the public if concerns are raised about the manner of driving of elderly, as they would for any other road user when a concern has been raised reported.

ELDER care in Gisborne is not just at a minimum but often below basic standards, says Age Concern Gisborne CEO Frances Toroa.

She sees daily examples of how senior citizens are becoming more detached from their communities, with social isolation the leading cause of depression.

Ms Toroa says Government funding has dwindled over the years but their work load had increased. Their main support comes from private benefactors.

“Things are random at the moment with regard to elderly care. It is largely hit and miss, with a growing number of people over 65 who are not having all their basic needs met.

“We’re trying our best as a little organisation but it’s a minefield.”

Twelve thousand elderly people live here. Senior citizens who needed help were not going to pick up the phone and request it, and Age Concern was restricted in how they could help, said Ms Toroa.

Often they were approached by concerned family or members of the community but many were falling through the cracks.

“There is a huge gap.”

Being able to re-engage elderly back into the community was as simple as someone regularly visiting them and having a conversation over a cup of tea.

Matching volunteers to seniors

Accredited Visiting Service Co-ordinator Cody Allen matches up volunteers to visit senior citizens who have no family to help them.

But a lot of people were too shy to self-refer, he said.

Ms Toroa said Age Concern was restricted in how they could assist.

“We can‘t refer these clients straight to the crisis team, we have to have a GP referral. And if they don’t want to see a doctor then nothing more can happen.”

Examples of poor elder care included a big problem in Gisborne of elderly men in social housing being extorted for money and/or shelter.

Ms Toroa was also concerned about the nutrition of Meals on Wheels -- the daily delivery service of a main meal to the elderly. Since the end of last year meals have been prepared in Auckland, frozen and then sent to Gisborne where they are reheated in the hospital kitchen before being delivered by volunteers.

A lack of support for elderly drivers has also been in the spotlight. A recent Automobile Association offer to give senior drivers in New Zealand a free “coaching” session was unavailable here because there are no AA driving instructors on the East Coast.

Ms Toroa said senior drivers are an unmonitored group who could benefit immensely from refresher courses.

With changes to road rules, sometimes all elderly drivers needed was a quick course to get their confidence back up, she said.

They used to run these through Age Concern until a few years ago, when funding was cut.

Having a car was an essential part of day to day life, she said.

“If you take away someone’s car, you take away their independence and this can lead to social isolation, which leads to loneliness, which leads to depression.”

Elder care has gotten worse

Ms Toroa says the issue of elder care had got worse since the end of GPs who used to follow people through their lives. Some still existed, and were wonderful, but they had largely been replaced by a business model where a doctor, usually not the same one you saw last time, could offer a patient only a 15-minute time slot and sometimes not for a few days, she said.

That was not enough time to build rapport and open up a conversation about concerns around driving ability or mental health issues like depression.

On top of that, there was also the financial aspect of seeing a doctor.

“When you are only living on the pension, $17.50 is a lot.”

Age Concern Year 3 student social worker Catherine Utting said she asked MP Anne Tolley about extra funding for the elderly and was told the Government’s focus was on children,

“But there are 12,000 elderly people living in the Tairawhiti region who need help too,” said Mrs Utting.

“If you take one thing away from them they will crumble.

She felt younger generations were not interacting enough with their elders.

Age Concern social worker Katie Macrae knows of a 90-year-old man who drives the Coast road twice a week to get his supplies.

If his car was taken away from him, how would he get his groceries, go to an appointment and maintain his independence?

“The further you go up the Coast, the more problems there are,” she said.

There are no transport systems in Gisborne to provide a safety net to catch drivers no longer deemed able to drive.

“Thank God for the Sunshine Bus Service,” Ms Toroa says.

Bus schedules sporadic

If it were not for the door-to-door service offered by the volunteer-run organisation, many elderly people would be stuck at home, she said. City bus schedules were sporadic and only of use to people who lived close to bus stops.

While Ms Toroa thinks it is a potentially dangerous situation having unmonitored elderly drivers on the roads, police say it is not a major problem here.

Road policing supervisor Sergeant Dean Plowman said Tairawhiti Police had only a handful of queries every year regarding elderly drivers and had very few calls from the public about driving behaviour of the elderly.

“Of course, with an ageing population we will start to have more elderly drivers, but the majority of these motorists are safe and experienced road users.”

Ms Toroa has elderly people confide in her that their driving is not the best but buses do not go down their road. So how were they supposed to carry their heavy groceries home, get to a blood test appointment or see their GP?

Mrs Utting says we need to respect elderly drivers more and remember we are all going to get old.

Both agree that socialisation is a key area to improve the mental health and loneliness affecting the elderly.

If police feel an elderly driver is unfit to be driving, they can request through LTNZ that a driver undergo a medical review if they believe there is a risk to other road users.

Sgt Plowman said Tairawhiti Police do not actively monitor elderly drivers in the community.

But they do respond to calls from the public if concerns are raised about the manner of driving of elderly, as they would for any other road user when a concern has been raised reported.

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Student nurse - 2 years ago
In regards to this article, can we as a community please keep an eye on our elderly who live in our neighbourhoods? Surely people are aware that they have an older person/s living next door or two doors down? Make that time in your day to go and check on them, to see that they are OK, to have a cup of tea with them and talk in general about how their day is going. From here this can lead to asking about meals and their means of transport, and then we too can help Age Concern with providing them with information of who is in need of help, so someone can help them! I am a student nurse and elder care is my passion. I would give anything to be able to help this increasing population to ensure they are able to receive the best quality of life they can have. Please everyone, step up for the generation who came before us and let's make that change!!

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