The elderly are special group of people whose healthcare needs are unique. For our purpose, we can say an elder is anyone who is 65 years old and above. The old age group as they are sometimes called do suffer from degenerative diseases such as wear and tear of osteoarthritis, dementia (degenerative diseases of the brain), poor mobility, poor eyesight, poor hearing, low appetite, weakening heart and lung functions. Others care constipation, and such illnesses as hypertension and diabetes mellitus to mention a few. Further, they may be lonely and live alone: their children having left them to fend for themselves. Frequently, elderly people are vulnerable and defenceless.
Mentally, elderly people are prone to depression and anxiety: some due to fear and apprehension of one thing or the other. Sleep could also suffer.
Moreover, being unable to gainfully earn a living, they may be poor and their purchasing power significantly reduced.
The elderly thus require a special attention and care. The general advice that had been provided in other areas in this book applies to the older age but more especially the following.
Individuals should prepare for the period of growing old and children and family members should set aside resources to prepare for the needs of old age.
- An elderly person requires special or modified accommodation. This is because the muscles and bones may no longer cope with climbing or descending stairs. An elderly person may become disabled through illness. As a result, he or she may need assistance in moving around such as requiring the use of wheel chairs or other form of motorability.
- Personal hygiene may deteriorate and family should consider paying close attention to this especially if there is physical or mental illness in the elderly person.
- Liaising with healthcare professionals, the elderly may need a special bed and chairs to give a comfortable living.
- Nutrition. Appetite is often low in old age. Dehydration is common in all climes. Food supplements, fruit meals and encouragement to eat properly may help too. They should be encouraged to have proper meals and drinks.
- Old people need company especially if the spouse had died or become infirm. In our tradition, the grand children would normally fill this void if the immediate children cannot.
- Illnesses no matter how minute or inconsequential should be aggressively pursued and treated. Elderly persons do not have the strength—mental and physical—to withstand infirmities. Therefore, there is a need to take care of every complaint.
- Dementia is a disabling illness which is either due to old age or Alzheimer or any other cause, is characterised by loss of memory and confusion which often get worse in time. As soon as memory loss is identified, it’s important to take the individual to the doctor as soon as possible. A consultation with specialist doctor of old age is perfectly in order. Falls are common as is disorientation. Elderly people do get lost so easily and wandered about in adversity in a condition that exposes them to social indignity and health hazards. Dementia may also cause the elderly to lose control of her/his body functions such as inability to control bowels and urine movements. Because of disorientation and confusion with time, nutrition may suffer and body reserves may be depleted. Social inhibition that normally restricts some behaviour may be lost. Patients suffering from dementia are vulnerable.
- Other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression or even sleeplessness or loneliness should be addressed and not dismissed as coming from an irritant old “witch” woman or man. Bereavement from lost of a spouse or lost of long-standing friend or family member can be very severe in the elderly and this development should not be dismissed. It may lead to depression, anxiety or early death of the old person if not handled with care and caution.
- Financially, elderly people can be muddled and they are thus prone to manipulation and exploitation by other capable minds. Thus, the aged person needs protection from such exploitation. Honest family members or friends, legitimate and transparently sincere solicitor should be used to defend the cause of the elderly especially in dealing with the estate and finances of the individual. Such instrument as Power of Attorney should be vested in the hands of the solicitor or family member. Such persons should deal with finances of the aged and muddled person who had lost the mental capacity to act for himself. Where the role of the solicitor is not possible, the family should consider the possible use of non-legal advocate whose role is to protect the interest of the elderly individual. Such solicitor and or non-legal advocate can even pursue a case for the individual in court. It’s crucially important that the family work with healthcare professional to determine the state of mind of the aged person.
- It’s crucial that we all prepare for our old age getting our will and testament done legitimately and clearly. Also, while still capable, individuals should set in place what and how he or she will like to be handled in case of incapacitation: stating who does what and how it’s to be done.
- We all need love; anyone who had lost a spouse should be encouraged to find love no matter the age.
- If the family cannot take care of the elderly at home, considering and in spite the country’s culture, the family and the individual elder should seriously consider relocating to or being placed in Old-People’s Home, where in the minimum, the health and welfare of the aged person can be better protected.