Home -health care services for the elderly: Isn't it time to give them their due?

If the elderly are able to seek preventive, curative, rehabilitative health care services on their own, it will result in not only a reduction in morbidity but also a sense of independence and empowerment

Published: Oct 13, 2017 10:06:25 AM IST
Updated: Oct 13, 2017 10:09:29 AM IST

Regular encouragement by family members, relatives and friends can help boost the morale of senior citizens and motivate them into using these technological tools
Image: Shutterstock

Over the years, the age structure of the population has changed with an increase in the proportion of older persons in the population. Senior citizens account for almost 8.6% of the total population of India. This figure translates to a huge population of 103.9 million, given that India’s population is 1210.9 million. This proportion will continue to increase in the future years (Source: Population Census 2011, SRS Report 2013).

Morbidity in the elderly includes long-term illnesses such as Diabetes and hypertension. The treatment for these lifestyle health issues needs to be regular and strictly adhering to the prescribed dosages. Irregularity in taking daily medications in such cases leads to increased susceptibility to various complications of these chronic diseases. At times, there may be side-effects of these medications, which are either not noticed or ignored. In absence of regular follow-up with the health care provider, these are not tended to, further worsening the scenario. Also, many elderly suffer from various dental, ophthalmic and auditory impairments, which can be controlled by timely medical interventions. If these are ignored, the quality of life of these senior citizens gets compromised. Elderly are also at risk for a variety of malignancies. These can be detected early if regular screening procedures are deployed. Specific Cancer such as breast, cervical and oral can be detected by relatively simpler screening tests. Early detection subsequently leads to better survival rates.

This huge geriatric population faces many challenges to access health care services. Many reside alone, with their children staying separately either in the same cities or at different locations across the globe. Travelling alone may be difficult for them. Dependence on family members for commuting compromises on their self-reliance and many detest being dependent on others. These senior citizens, who have had an economically productive life, and were independent with respect to fulfilment of their health- care needs, suddenly find themselves relying on the younger earning generation. This can augment depression and compromise on their mental health as well.

Furthermore, there is a huge gap in demand and supply for the health care services and products for this largely neglected stratum of the population. The need of the hour is to envisage innovative solutions to address this gap.  They deserve dignity, support and convenience for their health care –related needs in their twilight years. Providing affordable and quality home health care service is the key solution.

There are various home health care options available. However, not many senior citizens are comfortable with using technology to access them. So ultimately they are dependent on their children or relatives to help them access these services. The need of the hour is to generate awareness and conduct sessions on the use of the internet, smartphones, cashless transactions and related aspects. Senior citizens groups can play an important role in reaching out to the majority of elderly. Also, regular encouragement by family members, relatives and friends can help in boosting their morale and motivate them for using these technological tools.

Awareness and training sessions for access to home health care solutions can be conducted through collaborations with senior citizens groups and NGOs, who work with senior citizens. We can engage youngsters as well as people residing in the respective geographic areas, who are technologically savvy. Various existing home health care services can also be a part of this training process.

If the elderly are able to seek preventive, curative, rehabilitative health care services on their own, it will result in not only a reduction in morbidity but also a sense of independence and empowerment.

Our senior citizens have contributed to the society all their life in various roles and through different contributions. They still continue to do so in whatever way is possible for them. Is it not the time to give them their due? Access to high quality, timely and affordable health services is one way in which we, as a society can contribute to giving them the quality of life that they deserve.

The author of the article is Dr. Aasawari Nalgundwar, Assistant Professor, Healthcare Management, S. P. Mandali’s  Prin. L. N. Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research, Mumbai.
Views expressed in the article are personal.

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[This article has been reproduced with permission from Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research (WeSchool)]

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