Disability Allowance and Dementia-not the most exciting topic but maybe useful?
on 25-Jul-2017

There are all sorts of extra costs if you are living with, or supporting someone dementia. This topic, Disability Allowance, came up in a conversation about the (high) price of continence products. Dementia qualifies as a disability because it lasts more than 6 months.  Ongoing, additional costs could be: doctor’s visits, medication, prescription fees, continence products, medical alarms, gardening, lawns and some other kinds of home support. Even if you are receiving the Guaranteed Retirement Income (GRI) you might still be eligible for a Disability Allowance. To qualify, you have to be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, normally live in New Zealand and intend to stay in the country.

What is a Disability Allowance?

According to the Work and Income (WINZ) website: “Disability Allowance is a weekly payment for people who have regular, ongoing costs because of a disability, such as visits to the doctor or hospital, medicines, extra clothing or travel.”  https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/products/a-z-benefits/disability-allowance.html. The maximum amount is $62.37 per week and this is paid (untaxed) straight into your bank account with the GRI or other benefit, or weekly if you are not receiving any other form of financial assistance.

How do you get a Disability Allowance?

You have to fill in an application form recording your demographic characteristics (age, sex, living arrangements etc.) and your assets and income. Then you need to provide quotes or receipts/invoices showing what you have had to spend money on and why. You can approach your GP and /or Pharmacy for a summary of spending if you don’t have receipts. You also have to get a Medical Certificate (it is attached to the Disability allowance form) completed by your doctor to confirm that these costs have been necessary expenses associated with the disability / dementia.  The Disability Allowance is reviewed regularly, so save receipts to ensure you keep getting the allowance, or at least have access to this information (via GP, Pharmacy or other providers).

All this sounds a hassle, and it probably is the first time round. Get a friend, relative or person from your local Alzheimer’s or Dementia NZ Branch to help if need be.  However, $62.37 per week might be very helpful if costs are creeping up.  You don’t have to make an appointment with WINZ to make your application. You can drop these forms off at the counter – but keep a copy of it (Mr. Nobody sometimes loses them).

Why am I writing this?

Many older people are reluctant to ask for financial support, but dementia can result in a lot of out-of-pocket expenses and you are entitled to help. After all, the person with dementia, by staying at home rather than in residential care, is saving the state a great deal. And, on average, carers of people with dementia living in the community work 21.7 unpaid hours per week*. Getting a little back to pay for incidentals is reasonable. 

Perhaps I have moved too far from the coal face, because I had forgotten all the things that a Disability Allowance could go towards. I will be reminding my patients who have additional outgoings because of dementia that this might be a way to recoup some costs.

I'd be interested to hear from others about what they use the Disability Allowance for and whether there are difficulties getting it.