Senior care on International Day for the Elderly
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ON Saturday October 1, 2022, the United Nations (UN) focused on seniors, those 65 years and over, celebrating International Day for the Elderly under the theme: “Resilience of older persons in a changing world” so they can grow old with dignity. The genesis dated back to 1948 when the UN promoted “the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by older persons” and then later, in 1982, adopted the World Assembly on Aging. By 1990 UN proclaimed the October 1 as International Day for older persons which was first commemorated in 1991.
The world is getting pronouncedly older with 900 million people currently over age 60. It is predicted that by 2050 there will be two billion seniors, equivalent to 22 per cent of the world’s population, an unprecedented time when the elderly population will exceed the children’s population. Universally, life expectancy has increased over the past decades from 48 years in 1950 to 68 years in 2010 due to the improvements in public health, access to clean water and safer foods and social development. On average, men are expected to live 70 years and women 75 years; the latter group seemed to go an extra five years maybe because they are more responsive to healthcare advisories. Guyana is ranked at 137 worldwide where life expectancy for both genders is 70 years, but in Hong Kong and Japan they enjoy the maximum life expectancy of 85 years; being ranked as the fourth and nineteenth most developed countries respectively.
Depending on the health status, physical activity levels and mental vitality of seniors a productive lifestyle is possible. However, for the majority, the common medical issues experienced are malnutrition, falls, vision loss, hearing problems, depression and immobility.
During this phase of life many chronic illnesses may be diagnosed and medication adherence could also be an issue since the senior may be in a denial phase, confused about instructions or may discontinue treatment after experiencing unpleasant side effects. Writing down questions, listing medications, seeking clarifications during follow ups and reporting sessions with your pharmacists and doctors are crucial to treatment success and enhancing quality of life for the elderly.
There are also social and economic challenges since many persons may not have a retirement plan or disposable funds and hence income is limited to pension(s). It was estimated by WHO that two out of three elderly will require care and support at some point either in activities of daily living (ADL) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). ADL are basic self-care activities such as self-feeding, getting in and out of bed, chairs and toilet, bathing, dressing, personal and toilet hygiene, which may not be possible for the highly disabled seniors who may have had a stroke or became immobile due to severe arthritis or have mental impairments due to dementia.
Note that there are a lot of disability aids available to assist with these simple tasks such as shower chairs, raised toilet seats, commodes, grab bars, walkers, canes, wheel chairs and rubberized floor mats that can provide some level of independence and comfort to seniors whilst preventing accidents due to falls and, in worse case scenarios, fractures, which increases with age.
IADL are routine chores such as meal preparation, cleaning and sanitisation, shopping and paying bills, taking or administering prescribed medications and continually checking up on the phone; some of the vital tasks in senior care.
WHO launched in March 2022 a framework to support countries to achieve integrated continuum of long term care for the elderly, a major deficit in middle and low income countries, which was so profoundly demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic. They were the highest risk group who suffered the most. The less fortunate seniors who had no one to directly care for them were placed in senior homes and later succumbed.
Home care is the best mode of living from options such as independent living communities, assisted living communities, nursing homes or living with a relative. However because of financial, social and physical considerations and the existing support framework, sharing the responsibilities possibly with siblings and or professional caregiver(s) maybe the next best option for all parties.
It is challenging to be a caregiver for the elderly especially if you are required simultaneously to be a provider. The high demands of your energies must be equitably shared within the limited time available to ensure that all needs are sufficiently met. Caregivers are required to have adjusted lifestyle to accommodate the elderly.
Nutritional requirements for the elderly are similar to those of younger adults and should include lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, rice, legumes and soya bean products. Adequate hydration is key to preventing constipation and supplements are recommended to enhance immunity. Sugar, salt, saturated fats in meat and dairy products and alcohol should be restricted. A cut in calories consumed is recommended since your metabolism and output due to less physical activities have decreased.
A glimpse into what those seniors in Hong Kong and Japan are doing differently and their cultural and social infrastructure may hint what contributes to their high life expectancy rates. In Japan dietary habits, access to clean water, universal health, hygiene consciousness and active lifestyle are the order of the day. In Hong Kong there are reduced death due to fewer road accidents since car ownership is low and there is an effective public transportation system. Smoking and alcohol consumption are also low and so illnesses from such indulgences are not significant. The retirement homes culture is not encouraged and family members care for their elderly within their own homes.
Additionally a new international analysis in 35 OECD countries by International Longevity Centre in UK found that life expectancy and productivity have a positive relationship so it is good to encourage continuous participation in the area of the senior’s expertise.
In conclusion the twilight phase of life can be enjoyable and the happiest years once you have been able to plan ahead and receive the all vital continuous support from government, faith based organisations and family. Imparting wisdom, experience and guidance through story-telling and maintaining your social circle whilst still enjoying pleasurable extracurricular activities are priceless moments to cherish!
For further discussion, contact the pharmacist of Medicine Express Pharmacy located at 223 Camp Street, between Lamaha and New Market Streets. If you have any queries, comments or further information on the above topic kindly forward them to medicine.express@gmail.com or send them to 223 Camp Street, N/burg. Tel #225-5142.

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