Home care plays vital role with ageing population

agingconsultationpanelBarbados needs to consider the role its home help system can play in assisting with its ageing population and factor that into any policies it creates.

That is the belief of Acting PAHO/WHO Representative for the Caribbean, Dr. Ernest Pate, who told a multi-stakeholders consultation on healthy ageing this morning that Barbados was ahead of much of the region in the handling of its elderly.

He said too, that he found it impressive that in addition to having a growing population over 100 years old, these individuals were mostly still functioning members of the community and society, commenting that he had even encountered an old lady over 100 voting in the recent elections.

Nevertheless, Pate noted there were areas that needed to be considered as the island moved to create a public policy for the future handling of its ageing population, one of which was home care.

“Despite the work that is being done, I think there are a couple issues that need to be tackled in Barbados, but I think your job is going to be a lot easier than many of our other Caribbean countries. You have moved far ahead; you have put in place quite a bit of the infrastructure and work that is being done there is a lot of advocacy and there is a willingness to do this.

“But there are some challenges. There was a bit of surprise when I heard the number of patients you have in your institutions who are there not because they have a medical situation but because you have some challenges putting them back into a home environment,” he said.

He recalled that Barbados had instituted a National Commission as well as a White Paper on Ageing, adding that the one-day consultation on at Savannah Hotel would help push the process further.

Remarking on the island’s change in retirement age, Pate advised that as persons worked to older ages, it meant that the health system had to be adequate enough to keep those persons in healthy working condition.

“We in the Caribbean are seeing a rapid increase in non-communicable diseases… and in many instances you do need home care services. That’s presenting a challenge for many of our countries. We have clinics outside that provide some service; we have hospital services, but that phase when you finished with the clinic and you need to be in a home environment has been a challenge, not just for Barbados but for quite a few of our other countries, and this is an area that you may need to spend some time today looking at with some detail.

“Again, there is that high cost. If you look at the home care services you can clearly decrease the costs to the health care system because in many instances when you look at what it costs to keep a patient in the hospital for a day, that cost is significantly higher than if you were looking at providing services in a home setting,” he said.

He urge though that when looking at home care not to look at it in isolation or as a vertical programme but rather how to integrate care of the elderly into the services that currently exist. (LB)

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