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EDITORIAL: Elderly care must be taken more seriously


EDITORIAL: Elderly care must be taken more seriously

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UNDER our social welfare system we have come to expect the Government to be the provider of most things. But the stark economic difficulties the state now faces mean this is no longer possible.

We, the people, must start shouldering more responsibility for our daily existence, whether it be the pursuit of education or provision of housing and health care.

One area which has not got the kind of attention it deserves is the care of our elderly.

Many Barbadians are confronting the challenge daily of having to care for ageing relatives. The apparent upsurge in the incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia and the resultant need for specialised care make dealing with the aged even harder.

The situation is not limited to caring for the incapacitated elderly, but provision of a decent quality of life for our seniors in general. The harsh reality is that many of them are ill-prepared financially for their golden years and therefore unable to cushion many of the challenges. Given the growing elderly population this is a serious issue the country must confront.

 The existing geriatric hospitals cannot cope given the demand for places for those needing institutional care while many cannot afford the privately owned facilities offering such services. It is a dilemma which cannot be left at the doorsteps of Government, but needs the involvement of churches and non-governmental organisations, such as the Barbados Association of Retired Persons.

We need more geriatric care specialists since the problem can range from polypharmacy to misdiagnosis of illnesses to not fully briefing care providers to ensure continuity of quality support. We must not lose that ability to appropriately treat people who are old and maybe sick, but not dying.

What must be explored is to try to keep the elderly healthy in their own homes as they would prefer. But this approach can be costly.

The Government should undertake a review of the National Assistance Board (NAB) and update its roster of indigent senior citizens who may be worthy candidates who need its services but are excluded and suffering in silence.

 We should recognise that some elderly people will contribute readily to their care through a proven, tested and trusted service. The NAB is one such agency which is equipped to meet such needs.

This issue needs a clear policy focus from the major political parties and not glossed over among general electoral promises. Every Barbadian needs to lend their voice to a solution. The plight of the aged must be taken seriously and not left to become an affront.