Geri­atric care: To­wards a hap­pier and brighter sil­ver age

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - EVENTS/INTERNATIONAL - By Dr. Dil­har Sa­ma­raweera

Sri Lanka has one of the most rapidly ag­ing pop­u­la­tions in the world. At present, the over- 60 pop­u­la­tion is 12.5 per­cent and is pro­jected to in­crease to 25 per­cent in 2041. While it took 115 years in France and 85 years in Swe­den for the pop­u­la­tion over 65 years to in­crease from 7 per­cent to 14 per­cent, this in­crease is pre­dicted to oc­cur in Sri Lanka in just 23 years. The rapid in­crease in the el­derly pop­u­la­tion, how­ever, is tak­ing place with­out a ma­jor change in the in­fra­struc­ture and per capita level of in­come. Thus, Sri Lanka will need a spec­tac­u­lar rate of eco­nomic growth to pro­vide health­care ser­vices for this rapidly ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

In this con­text, the long- term care of the el­derly will need the de­vel­op­ment of long- term care fa­cil­i­ties in ad­di­tion to the ex­ist­ing hos­pi­tals. It is dif­fi­cult for the el­derly to travel far for treat­ment; thus phys­io­ther­apy and other ser­vices need to be avail­able at com­mu­nity level. Im­prov­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity to such ser­vices through the de­vel­op­ment of com­mu­nity health ser­vices is needed, as also the lo­ca­tion of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in­sti­tu­tions closer to their homes. They also need a so­cial se­cu­rity mech­a­nism which will en­sure health care for them. No in­surance pol­icy cov­ers the el­derly, as the age limit for most poli­cies is 55. Thus, fi­nan­cial con­straints dur­ing old age make them de­pen­dent on their chil­dren who may al­ready be hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties with ex­penses in­curred by their own chil­dren. This bur­den could cause a strain on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween chil­dren and their par­ents. As such, it is im­por­tant to find a mech­a­nism through which el­ders could be pro­vided fi­nan­cial sup­port.

At present, the long-term care of the el­derly is mostly done by the ex­tended fam­ily which is an as­set. Patients are be­ing dis­charged pre­ma­turely due to pres­sure of beds and high turnover in hos­pi­tal wards, while time and space are not avail­able for a pa­tient need­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in

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