Baby boomers five-year care plan

A NEW five-year aged care plan was launched by the area health service yesterday to deal with the region’s burgeoning baby boomer population.

About 19 per cent of the population on the Northern Rivers is aged over 65, compared with the State average of 14 per cent.

“That’s a big difference,” said North Coast Area Health Services chief executive Chris Crawford.

“That’s why we need a plan for older residents because not only do we have a lot of them, we also have a lot of 55 year olds who will shortly fall into that age group.”

As Baby Boomers get older and their health inevitably deteriorates they will put more stresses on the already cash-strapped health system, he said.

As a rough rule of thumb, a person over the age of 65 uses twice as many resources as someone under 65, while a person over 85 uses four times as many.

The new Aged Care plan has three planks: encouraging people to care for their own health as they age; finding better ways to prevent and manage chronic disease; and increasing access to specialist assessment and diagnosis.

Mr Crawford said the plan, which will be reviewed every five years, promotes a wellness model encouraging people to exercise and eat properly to prevent obesity.

“If we are smart about it we can achieve two things at once: Give someone a better quality of life, and secondly a cost-effective way of delivering health care because it is a lot cheaper to keep someone well than it is to treat illness,” he said.

“It’s also more cost-effective to treat them at home than in hospital.”

He said under the new model medical staff would keep in contact with patients who have chronic illnesses, and, when they deteriorate, organise assistance to keep them out of hospital for as long as possible.

“We are really turning medical care on its head and being proactive with early intervention and putting patients in touch with services to avert hospital admissions with our hospital in the home program,” Mr Crawford said.

He described the plan as one of the proudest things he has been associated with during his time as chief executive because it would provide services for a long time into the future.

“It gives us a very good platform for giving the ageing population the support they need for having a good retirement and a good quality of life in the later years,” he said.

He said it would also help the health service identify where there were any gaps in the existing service model, an extension of current services or building entirely new ones would fill any gaps, as well as help health services and plan where to build or extend existing ones.



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