New Report Highlights Needs of the Dependent Elderly
Thursday, 30 May 2002
A report, written by Dr. Eamon O'Shea of the Department of Economics, NUI Galway for the Council of Europe on "Improving the Quality of Life of Elderly Persons in Situations of Dependency", highlights the need for a socially functioning society as opposed to an economically functioning society, in terms of care of the elderly. The report, introduced at the World Assembly on Aging in Madrid in April 2002, will be formally presented to Governments at the European Conference on Aging in September 2002.
It is predicted that the number of over-65s will double in the next thirty years and, within the elderly population, the oldest age categories are the fastest growing. Dependency, the report states, is likely to increase in line with the general ageing of the population in Europe, particularly dementia-related dependency, which is an increasing function of age.
"It is important in light of these facts," says Dr. O'Shea "to look at the well-being and quality of life of all people as they grow older, including people with lifelong disabilities".
The report gives a number of recommendations for improving the quality of life of dependent elderly people:
- The autonomy, integrity and dignity of elderly people must be taken into consideration at all times and participation and independence must be encouraged;
- Primary healthcare should be coordinated with social care and secondary care and delivered by appropriately trained staff;
- Home-based care for dependent elderly people should be delivered locally in a flexible manner within the framework of an integrated health and social care system;
- Day care centre and respite care provision should be expanded for all dependent elderly people, including people with dementia;
- People with dementia should receive services in appropriately designed environments from people who are specifically trained to deliver such care.
The report places great emphasis on the importance of a social focus on care of dependent elderly people in later life. Therefore, an area of particular importance is that of family care. Family carers have a very important role to play in the care of dependent elderly people but, from a social viewpoint, they cannot be assumed to be a free resource. The report recommends that the needs of family carers be explicitly recognised through the granting of legislatively-based rights and the provision of appropriate information, training, respite and other support services.
Other recommendations include special attention given to the development of a variety of geriatric medicine facilities including: day hospitals which cater to the individual needs of the dependent elderly; assessment and rehabilitation services; and high quality long-stay care in a variety of settings staffed by trained personnel.
"At the heart of this report" said Dr. Eamon O'Shea, "is the recommendation that the prevention of dependency for elderly people should be a central tenet of health, social care and environmental policy throughout life. Overcoming ageist attitudes within society, for example, is a way of working towards preventing dependency in later life. What is important is that elderly people are treated as citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as younger people."
The report concludes with the key message that full citizenship rights for all dependent elderly persons is crucial and these rights should be guaranteed by law. Solidarity must be collective and public if the full potential of elderly people with disabilities and their carers is to be realised. "This solidarity must be maintained and enhanced through dialogue and discussion amongst all of the social partners," said Dr. O'Shea " and these discussions should include the elderly themselves."
For further information:Maire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI Galway 091-750418