The population is getting older. More and more attention from governments are being focused on how best to cope with the largest ever generation of the elderly. The illnesses and afflictions common with this group are becoming the most frequently treated and diagnosed, consuming an ever increasing amount of resources administered by an ever thinner, less custom force of care.
Last October, a nurse was quoted in The Guardian newspaper:
‘Many older patients in hospital have dementia, combined with very high levels of need, such as incontinence, and requiring assistance with eating or walking. Meeting care needs is complicated by communication difficulties. Severe short-term memory loss means that reassurance and comfort given has no lasting effect. Patients may call out repeatedly and persistently, and responding can appear futile to staff.’
Warning Families are only getting smaller with younger members migrating and added pressures in work and life meaning unadulterated care of the elderly is becoming more and more difficult to ensure. The elderly are being left behind and in an ever ageing population, it is now that we must ensure care, of a higher quality, comes first.
Action With time and resources more of an issue than ever, we must look to any and all changes that can be made to enhance and prolong a comfortable life for the elderly. Most importantly, we must instil within them, ourselves and our communities that a substantial proportion of the elderly are capable, conscious members of society, and if looked after thoroughly, could become, in part, carers and beneficiaries of their own needs. For us, we must ensure the earliest identification of problems associated with life threatening illnesses, make impeccable assessments of skin failure to relieve and prevent suffering and to, above all, strive to manage physical, psycho-social and spiritual problems wherever and however possible. At the end of life people are unwell, dependent and soon to die. They require palliative skills and cultural competence that improve the quality of life of patients and their families. A healthy skin can determine this and a smiling face will help.