Hundreds of elderly Kiwis are living in secure dementia units even though they never agreed to live there, a new report has found.
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The Human Rights Commission report considers legal and ethical concerns around the housing of an estimated 5000 elderly New Zealanders.
The report, called This Is Not My Home, collects essays from lawyers, doctors, academics and a District Court Judge about residential care of older people when that care is provided without the person's consent.
According to the report, around 4000 New Zealanders are being detained in secure dementia units, with another 1000 in residential psychogeriatric facilities.
Disability Rights Commissioner and acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero says very few of these people have formally consented to being held in these locked facilities.
"It is critical that appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure everyone's rights and preferences are respected to the greatest extent possible," says Ms Tesoriero.
"This requires a real commitment to actively support individual decision-making. I hope that the calls for law reform and change of practice identified by the contributors will be carefully considered by all those who can influence change in this area."
Ms Tesoriero says strong advocacy for these New Zealanders is vital, including more work to understand their perspectives.
"We do not know much about how they feel about the situations they are in or what it is like to be forced, against your will, to live in a place that is not your home and is not where you want to be," says Ms Tesoriero.
"This makes it even more important that we advocate for these people and do whatever we can to ensure that they are supported to live the best life that they can, and that their rights, preferences and wishes are respected as much as possible."
The report was prepared for a series of seminars and workshops about the care of psycho-geriatric patients in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Aged Care Association was not available for comment.