By Himanshu Rath
With the ever-increasing life span in old age across the globe, old age care and support-related needs are increasing substantially and due to the challenges facing the formal and informal care system, the life of older people, particularly those in their eighties or nineties is becoming critical.
Moreover, older people living with disabilities have unmet care needs related to their physical and psychological health, social life, as well as the environment in which they live and interact.
Social life in old age
Social relationships and social interactions matter most in old age, older people more often express feelings of loneliness and social isolation, when they lose the ability to sustain relationships or engage in social activities due to their illness.
Poor health increases the risk of social isolation and loneliness in this area. The high prevalence of loneliness in older people living with others as well as in those living alone suggests the need to increase older people’s access to ‘meaningful’ relationships.
Self-care, daily life, and mobility in old age
Many older people, particularly those living with chronic conditions experience difficulties with tasks related to mobility, self-care, and daily life, and are in many cases dependent on family members, caregivers, and home care services to provide support. The role family carers have in supporting older people to meet their day-to-day needs is well-recognized.
However, long-term care and support remain a growing concern for almost all older people, their family members, and other stakeholders. Other concerns include – inadequate understanding of the needs of older people, as well as lack of information on services, particularly for those without links to people with similar needs or health and social care services.
Despite the physical challenges faced, many older people desire to cope with their illness and maintain independence due to self-care strategies, mobility aids, home adaptations equipment, and continuing activities.
Most older people also need psychological support to cope with emotional and psychological difficulties caused or exacerbated by chronic conditions.
It is important to take into consideration the needs of older people, when designing services or solutions targeting them, as many available support services do not cater to their needs such as care services and technology products.
How we can take care of and support the elderly
Extending a helping hand to our elderly members is a social responsibility of all. By extending care and support to the elderly, they can feel more connected and assured. We can follow these simple ways and make their life more comfortable and happier.
Ø Visit the elderly more often: Older people like social interaction. They feel safer, healthier, and more active when people visit them more frequently. During visits, it’s always best to check around their home for any issues that may need to be addressed.
Ø Check their health condition and medications: Be sure that elderly family members/neighbours have adequate supplies of their medications. Their doctor or pharmacist may be consulted in case of any health issue to ensure their health-wellbeing.
Ø Seek help or hire a caregiver: There may be a need to hire a caregiver. In many cases, only a trained caregiver can help with their daily activities such as showering, housekeeping, etc. Before hiring, records and the source of the caregivers must be checked.
Ø Make elderly-friendly medications: While taking care of elderly persons, also take a look around the home and assess possible safety hazards. Friendly modifications may be done such as bright lighting, raised toilet, a ramp for wheelchairs or walkers, handrails and grab bars, cables, cords, and wires, non-skid mats, auto-sensor nightlights, smoke detectors, etc.
Ø Take stock of their finances: Open discussions about their financial needs and expenses must be done to ensure financial security and independence in old age.
Ø Take care of their paperwork: In old age, people may find simple paperwork very tough. Make sure everything is up-to-date and completed when it comes to their important paperwork. This can give immense peace of mind to older people.
Ø Accompany them when they need: You may drive their car or accompany them to hospitals, and clubs when they need someone’s company. Try to keep them active: Older people become isolated, lonely, or even suffer from depression, especially if they have lost their spouses or dear ones. It is important that they remain involved with their family and friends, or even venture out to make new connections.
Ø Ensure the supply of healthy food: The elderly may not have the ability or desire to cook for themselves. Ensure a regular supply of healthy food in their kitchen, it will encourage them to remain healthy in old age.
Ø Train them about the newer technology: Most older people find new technology difficult to adapt to or useless for them and avoid using it. Instead, if they are encouraged to learn and use it their life may become easier and more comfortable. They just need to be motivated for training. With this, modern-day equipment like CCTV cameras, motion sensors, smartphones, and other smart equipment can make a difference in their life.
Himanshu Rath is head of the Agewell Foundation USA Inc. It is a 501(c)(3) registered Non-Profit initiative, committed to working for the welfare of destitute Old People desperately needing assistance.