Elder care or care for the elderly refers to fulfilling special needs of senior citizens. Senior citizens today means our own parents, elderly destitute people, the homeless and others of old age who may be infirm or ill. In many countries around the world, ‘elderly care’ covers a whole area of related services in the areas of adult day care, assisted living, long-term care, home-care, hospice care and so on. However, these services vary from region to region depending upon cultures, ethnic races, communities etc. Unlike many parts of the western world, among the eastern nations elderly parents continue to be looked after by children or family members unless there is a specific need to use elderly care services.
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In the present context, elderly care has come to mean the personal and social requirements of elders who largely need some kind of assistance with daily activities and chores but choose to lead their life independently and with dignity without being dependent on any one person. It is noteworthy that this is a burgeoning segment but is still vastly unrecognized and falls under the unpaid market sector. By 2050, the percentage of the elderly in world population is likely to be between 18 to 20 percent.
Elderly care can be a very challenging concept especially if the person who needs the care is resistant or unwilling to seek assistance. The key to providing adequate and wholesome elderly care is to understand what lies beneath the ‘resistance’ so that an atmosphere of co-operation is established.
One of the main reasons for resisting assistance is the unwillingness to relinquishing privacy and adjusting oneself to new methods and routines. This makes them feel wary and vulnerable and at the heart of the issue is the feeling that they will ultimately become a burden to those around them as they get older and older.
But for those elderly with specific and serious problems such as immobility, loss of memory, illness or debilitating diseases, seeking assistance is of vital importance. In such cases, it is the responsibility of a family member to try to break down the resistance and help the person embrace the change needed. Having a frank and open chat with the person about his or her needs and helping them overcome their fears in leading an ‘assisted life’ depends on vital factors such as –
• Making an assessment of the kind of help needed and analyzing what agencies or services meet them best
• Making the person concerned speak up about their fears and doubts and ‘clearing the air’
• Understanding the person’s preferences regarding the type of support services required
• Taking the help of close family or friends to help persuade and make a decision
• If at first unwilling, not giving up and waiting for the next suitable opportunity to discuss the issue again
Elder care is one of the major issues that organizations like the WHO is targeting to fulfill the vital needs of healthcare services of older populations.