It's not difficult to see why some of our elderly locals were so unhappy with the Hawke's Bay District Health Board this week.

Which is a shame because the DHB is trying to do better by our elderly population in 2020.

But as one hand gives an extra $3 million to the bay's 65+ residents this year, another is taking something away.

After a 2019 review, the DHB decided to cut a service that provides 65+-year-olds with housework.

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Just over 600 residents aged 65+ have been sent letters explaining that if they only receive DHB funded housework, and no other health-related support services, then the housework service is ending.

There will be some people who can cope.

But many are anxious, angry and distressed at the change.

The January 6 letter advises people that their service provider will be in touch to tell them when the service ends, and helpfully suggests people should do their own housework.

"While housework may seem a chore it is also a great way to maintain a good level of health and wellbeing at any age."

One recipient of the January 6 letter was told the service ends for them next week. Ouch.

That's a tight timeframe. Happy New Year.

Worse, not everyone seems to have received the letter, and service providers were breaking the news to surprised and distressed service users.

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It's not all bad news - users who consider that the housework is essential can have their situation reassessed.

And so far, 160 people who have called the DHB have retained the service.

Giving people bad news is never easy.

Giving elderly people bad news requires patience and empathy. None of that was displayed here.

The letter came out of "Corporate Services". Sometimes the corporate approach needs to be a little softer. Corporate decisions aren't just about numbers - they affect people.

The DHB has apologised for getting the tone of the letter wrong and suggesting people do the housework themselves. And for sending the letter to people for whom the service is vital.

There was no good time to let people know, but doing it in the first week of the New Year was lousy timing.

DHBs employ thousands of brilliant, caring, empathetic people who provide care for our elderly, for all of us. It's a shame when something goes awry like this.

The DHB is keen for us to know that in 2020 it has forecast spending of $82.1 million on residential care, home-based support, carer support and palliative care for older people, an increase of $3.3m on 2019. That's fantastic.

Perhaps some of that can be spent on reviewing whether those at the corporate end of the stick could learn something from the caring, empathetic DHB workers working with people face to face each day.