Monday, September 4, 2017

Home Healthcare is the Way Forward to Improve Elderly Care in India

By Dr. Gaurav Thukral, Executive Vice -President and COO, HealthCare atHome

A report released by UN Population Fund India titled ‘Caring for our elders: Early response India Ageing Report 2017’, highlights a perturbing issue. By 2050, the global population of the elderly who are above 60-years of age is set to reach 2 billion, outnumbering those under 15-years of age for the first time in history. India is going to be a major contributor to this phenomenon, with this set of population in the country predicted to grow three-fold from around 100 million at present to 300 million by 2050. The report suggests that ageing does not only affect the elderly but has consequences for the entire society. One of the major challenges such circumstances can pose is on the healthcare sector. Home based healthcare, with its reach and resources, can play a pivotal role in addressing this challenge by providing professional geriatric care to improve the quality of life for the elderly and maintain their independence for as long as possible.

In India, family is responsible for the care of elderly relatives. However, there is a marked dissolution of the traditional family set-up as we know it with changing scenarios where children are increasingly moving out for employment, both spouses are working for a living, competitive and busy lifestyles taking over sedentary regimes and even the elderly looking to be independent for as long as possible. Nuclear families are growing in numbers gradually taking over the joint family structure. These factors affect how the elderly receive their care. Additionally, it is important to note that the requirements for health-care of the elderly are different from regular patients.

Dr. Gaurav Thukral, Executive Vice -President and COO, HealthCare atHome said, “An important area where home based healthcare proves to be invaluable for the seniors is in the management of chronic or non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Regardless of socio-economic status, NCDs are extremely common in old age. Common chronic conditions include cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and mental conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, depression and hypertension. Chronic diseases, are not only the biggest reasons for hospital visits but also a leading cause of death among elderly in India. Disabilities resulting from chronic diseases are occurring more often, which makes it difficult for the senior patients to conduct their day-to-day lives in a normal manner. When that happens, there is also an escalating burden on the care giver”.

Home based healthcare services provide both effective and economic resources to manage such chronic diseases. For instance, HealthCare atHOME provides the LifeCare atHOME services that includes management of lifestyle changes, chronic diseases and wellness segment requisite for elderly care. Other services offered by HealthCare atHOME include DIABEE specifically for the management of diabetes. Keeping in mind that elderlies with chronic conditions require consultation of multiple physicians and continuous assistance with daily tracking of health parameters, DIABEE service provides patients with a multi-disciplinary care team who creates personalised diabetes management and support for the patients. Technology is vital to every homecare service and HealthCare atHOME has developed a DIABEE app which monitors a patients vitals like fitness levels, diet charts, up-to-date medical reports and hospital visits for comprehensive management of the disease.

Thus, more and more families are opting for homecare when it comes to administering long term care for their elderly relatives. The fact that patients can be monitored and treated within their homes, the environment they are most comfortable in, is the biggest benefit of home based healthcare. However another major plus point is the cost-effectiveness resulting from reduction in doctor visits and hospitalisation. Families end up saving anywhere between 10-50 per cent of the total healthcare costs as compared to regular hospital treatment. Therefore, homecare offers a preventive and effective approach to overseeing chronic diseases in the elderly.

As mentioned earlier, geriatric care is very different from general nursing. From being technically well-equipped to handle medical situations, caregivers to the elderly also have to have a certain type of disposition. Patience and compassion are two significant qualities required while attending the elderly. Home healthcare provides its staff with essential training specifically for geriatric care, that allows them to provide professional care that even family members may not endowed to. As a person ages, their vulnerability to declining functional abilities also increases. The ability to perform staple tasks on a daily basis like feeding, bathing, dressing, maintaining physical hygiene and basic mobility become difficult for the elderly. In most cases, it is not possible for one of the family members to stay home and take care of the patient everyday. Nursing services provided by homecare are not only limited to medical duties like monitoring vitals and administering medications but healthcare attendants are available round the clock for assisting patients with daily activities.

Debilitating health can harm both the physical and psychological state of the elderly. Therefore, in the case of geriatric care, the healthcare giver must be extremely sensitive to the needs of the patient. While improving the quality of life for the older patients through physical wellbeing it is also necessary to provide them with emotional support. This is why, they are best cared for at home where they feel secure among their loved ones. But with the demands of geriatric care being much greater and vastly different, it is also important that they receive professional care. Home based healthcare ensures that diseases in the elderly patients are treated with successful clinical outcomes while making sure they do it with compassion.

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