In some cultures, older people are revered for their wisdom and looked after with the utmost respect and dignity. Unfortunately, in the UK, attitudes towards our elderly can be very different. Elderly people are often seen to have served their purpose and to become a burden on families and resources. We are all human beings and it is important to ensure that we treat everybody with equal compassion and dignity, whatever their age whether with live in careor in a good home.
It is important to remember that elderly people were once young. They were working hard, raising families and contributing to society, paving the way for future generations. Their age has allowed them to gain wisdom and knowledge. They have surely earned the right to be treated with respect and kindness in old age.
An ageing population
People are living longer and often living with multiple health problems. The rates of disability increase in later life as do the levels of heart disease, the occurrence of stroke, vision and hearing problems, joint pain, incontinence, depression and of course dementia. Resources are limited but we must do all we can to ensure that the lack of resource doesn’t detract from the need for dignity and compassion. Treatment and care should be based on need and not determined by age.
Elderly people are human beings with valid feelings and opinions but they are also amongst the most vulnerable members of society. Elderly people deserve a guarantee that their basic care needs will be met, including dignity, nutrition and hydration as well as support for their emotional needs. As a society, we should challenge stereotypes and stigmas that elderly people are somehow less worthy of our time or resources. Aging is something that happens to us all, and therefore empathy is key when providinghome care or care within a care home.
A problem with elderly care is that resources are directed to high level rather than low level needs. Due to a lack of attention, low level needs can soon escalate into higher level needs and this is why we have so many issues in the care sector. Fully understanding the needs of elderly people and providing the right care for vulnerable people results in overall better wellbeing in their later years, even if their general health deteriorates somewhat, due to natural reasons.
Integration of care is one area where provision for the elderly is lacking. Due to the need for ongoing care, discharge from hospital into social care can be delayed which has the potential to be very unsettling and destabilising for the patient. Better working between health and social care can help to get care packages put in place more quickly.
Support for families and carers is key as well. Good quality information sharing between health agencies and the people taking care of elderly people is essential for the right care for any elderly person. If everyone is working together towards shared goals, they feel empowered and this goes a long way to providing better care.