Conference opened

The 2016 Alzheimers NZ Conference, and 19th Asia Pacific Regional Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International, has been opened by Minister of Health Hon. Johnathan Coleman and Dr Ngaire Dixon, Chair of Alzheimers NZ.

Read Ngaire’s opening speech:

Speech to open the 2016 Alzheimers NZ Conference by Ngaire Dixon

Thank you Minister for opening our Conference and for your comments about how NZ is responding to the challenge that dementia presents now and preparing to meet the growing challenge in future.

Thanks also to Taranaki Whānui for their very warm welcome this morning.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ngaire Dixon and I’m the Chair of Alzheimers New Zealand. It’s my very great pleasure this morning to welcome you all to Wellington and to our biennial conference Dementia Today: Diverse Communities, Collective Action.

This conference is also the 19th Asia Pacific Regional Conference of Alzheimers Disease International and so I am also delighted to welcome delegates from the Asia Pacific to the Conference. This is only the second time NZ has hosted an international ADI conference, the last time was in Christchurch in 2001.

In 2001 we were the first international ADI Conference to have a person with dementia as a speaker, and supporting people with dementia to have a strong voice remains a key element of Alzheimers NZ’s strategy.

This year we have been the first to offer free registration for people living with and affected by dementia – made possible with support from the Freemasons Foundation and the Ponsonby Lodge 54. I am delighted to advise that 20% of the registrations for this conference are people with dementia and care partners, and we have people with dementia participating as plenary speakers and in the concurrent sessions. Thank you, we are honoured that you have chosen to share your experiences with us.

Dementia is one of the most significant, and growing, healthcare challenges facing us globally and here in New Zealand.

There are some 60,000 Kiwis with dementia and the condition costs the country over $1 billion a year.

The really scary thing is that at best only half of the 60,000 people who have dementia will have been diagnosed.

The number of people with dementia is expected to triple in the next 25 years so you can all imagine what the annual cost will be then.

But far more important than the financial cost is the human cost – and this conference is all about how we ensure people with dementia can continue to live productive, dignified lives in which they have a central role in making the decisions that will affect them.

This conference is about how we ensure people with dementia get the support they need, when and how they need it.

And this is something we are regularly talking to the government about.  In fact, we are advocating strongly that government provide funding in next year’s Budget to increase the support available for individuals with dementia who live at home, and their carers.

We have put forward a two-tier strategy – our proposal to government is that firstly we want 12 months of guaranteed post diagnostic support for each person diagnosed with dementia. That’s about 14,000 people each year.

The money would go towards a raft of initiatives, chief among them providing better in-home care and support and information services.

Secondly, we want the government to implement the Navigator role as a priority. This is a designated person in the care team for a person with dementia and is their first point of contact.

There is plenty of evidence to support these proposals and we know that, when implemented, they will:

  • increase quality of life for people with dementia, and their carers;
  • increase the length of time that people with dementia can continue to live at home.

Government would also benefit significantly.

They’d enjoy:

  • reduced costs in terms of providing long-term residential care for people with the condition, and …
  • reduced costs because there’d be fewer of the unnecessary hospital admissions that arise from the need for crisis intervention.

So that’s Alzheimers NZ’s game plan. That’s what we are lobbying for with this government and with the opposition parties who may form the next government.

Better care and support for people with dementia and better care and support for their carers.

Alzheimers NZ is committed to getting those proposal across the line and we look forward to them being formally adopted into government policy.

In the meantime, it is great to see so many of you here today, and it’s a real privilege to have the opportunity to spend the next two and half days with you as we learn from, engage with, and collaborate with each other so we can all do more and better for people affected by dementia.

Its been an exciting time for dementia on the global stage in the past few years and the conference programme showcases those global developments, as well as advances in research, prevention, support services and treatment options both here and internationally.

And we are privileged to have some of the foremost international and NZ experts in dementia here as keynote speakers – Mick Carmody, Kate Swaffer, Maurice Curtis, Steve Iliffe, Al Power, Graham Stokes, Matthew Croucher, Mary Mittleman and Lee-Fay Low. We are also joined by Glenn Rees, Chair Alzheimers Disease International, Adelina Comas, one of the authors of the 2016 World Alzheimers Report, and Jim Nicholson from the Ministry of Health. Thank you to you all for offering your time to be part of this Conference.

This Conference is the culmination of many month’s work for Alzheimers NZ and the various conference committees and I do want to thank our sponsors for helping make the conference possible – our platinum sponsor Bupa Care Services NZ, our Gold sponsor the Alzheimers NZ Charitable Trust, our silver sponsors Public Trust, Brain Research NZ and Careerforce, plus the Centre for Brain Research and our Partners NZ Print and GSL Promotus. I also want to acknowledge the funding for the Conference provided by Pub Charity.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of you for taking the time to be with us here in this great venue on the Wellington waterfront for Dementia Today: Diverse Communities, Collective Action.