Elderly care is a steady industry in New Zealand. It is one of the most stable industries in New Zealand because the New Zealand population is an old population. In light of this attempts to improve the geriatric care standards in New Zealand should always be a priority. Present services and healthcare organizations should always be reviewed and accredited to make sure that they are qualified and their services are not obsolete or redundant.
There are different organizations which provide services to the elderly in New Zealand. We should take the time to know these organizations because since most of us work in a healthcare setting with a lot of geriatric clients, we should know the services that are made available to them. We should always provide accurate and useful information about the elderly care system in New Zealand because there are still a number of misconceptions about it.
a.) Age Concern NZ
Age Concern NZ has 6 main services, and I will discuss three of the services. The first service is about eliminating the feeling of loneliness in elderly people. The purpose of this service is because most elderly people feel that they are neglected and abandoned by their families or the society. The effects of loneliness can have negative repercussions on the mental and physical health of elderly clients. They may often feel left out because they can no longer keep up with the fast paced world that we live in. Age Concern NZ is offering a service which includes visiting elderly clients and spending time with them. This can be a learning experience which can greatly benefit both the client and the volunteer. The client will no longer feel lonely and will somehow be alleviated from their feelings of isolation from the society. The volunteer will be able to learn and correct about some of the misconceptions that society has about the effects of aging, and will greatly make a positive impact on the elderly clients they are visiting.
The second service that they offer is about Elderly Abuse. The elderly are especially susceptible to being victims of abuse because usually they are no longer at the peak of their physical and mental health, which is interpreted by others as a sign that they can abuse an elderly person and get away with it. What some people tend to forget is that elderly people still deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I believe that elderly clients should always have a say in what they want and they should be given choices rather than other people deciding what is best for them, unless they are no longer able to decide what may or may not be good for them, or if they may inflict harm to themselves and to others if left to their own means. Some elderly people are also victims of exploitation because most of these people are looking for someone to help them care for themselves. There may be some people who are only showing love and support to these clients because they know that they can get something from them in return or because they can manipulate their decisions. The company offers support to the people going through any form of elderly abuse and they educate people who work with elderly clients and their families about the different types of abuse and their warning signs.
The third service is about the wellbeing of the elderly clients. If the clients are happy, have healthy relationships there is less risk for depression. Depression can be avoided even in the later years of life by promoting the wellbeing and happiness of the client. One way of promoting the happiness of a client is allowing him or her to continue doing his or her hobbies if it is still safe for him or her to do so. It minimizes the negative effects of aging and can make the client feel uplifted and empowered. We can also introduce new activities to emphasize the fact that we are never too old to try new experiences.
GreyPower provides superannuation or what is more commonly known as pension. They try to provide a better level of pension to people aged 50 and above. They argue that what the pensioners are currently getting is not enough for them to live a relatively comfortable life in their old age. They are forced to make some compromises to their standards of living. One of the main problems that they are trying to solve is that when the prices of commodities go up, the pension stays the same. It does not adjust to the economy. What some of the people at GreyPower are trying to do is to lobby for the increase of pension as the costs of living in New Zealand also increase. They primarily focus on providing the adequate health needs of each pensioner and help them in being able to pay their electricity bills.
c.) SuperGold Card
The SuperGold Card is given to seniors and it gives the card holder certain discounts from different businesses, free public transportation, and free services from the local government. Residents who are 65 and above are eligible to avail the SuperGold Card. They can use the public transport system for free after the peak hours, which is an extremely useful benefit because public transport in New Zealand can be very expensive especially when you have to take 2 or more buses to get to where you want to go. They can also avail of discounts on petrol prices and when buying gadgets at certain electronics stores in New Zealand. I don’t know about you but this card makes me want to grow old!
Seniorline promotes “Positive Ageing” and it is all about giving more attention to the elderly and still appreciating what they can do for our society. I will liken the elderly to the predators of the ecosystem. Most of us think they are nuances and dangerous but without them, there will be imbalances in nature. It’s the same with the elderly. They may seem like they have no use at all except for bothering us but they are excellent sources of wisdom and advice, and they are able to help us more than we think.
e.) Global Action on Aging
The Global Action on Aging does not offer any concrete services but they do one of the most important jobs towards the advancement of elderly rights and care, which is advocacy. They advocate for the rights of the elderly and in doing so, help prevent theft, abuse, and neglect of the elderly.
Hospitalization is the last resort for elderly patients because this means that there are complications with regards to the client’s health which cannot be handled at the rest home or the out-patient level. It is a risky place to be in as an elderly patient because aside from the reason for their hospitalization, there is a risk of nosocomial infection, which is an infection acquired in the hospital. Since elderly patients are at a higher risk of acquiring infections because of their decreased immunity, we should safeguard against these risks meticulously. The benefits of the elderly patient staying in hospital care are that the staff and are trained for any possibility or situation that may arise and they are equipped to respond to these situations, and it is easy to refer them to another department if it is needed. Another benefit is that if they experience a medical emergency, they do not need to be transported anymore to a facility which can cater to them because they are already in the hospital. They are also at less risk for falls because hospitals usually assign a watcher if a patient has an elevated risk for falls (confusion, disorientation, etc.) and the hospitals beds usually have side rails installed. The most important advantage that the hospital has is that it can assess the risks associated with a patient and in theory, they can prevent these risks from happening instead of having a client stay at his or her home, where most risks are not identified. These interventions can prolong the length of the life of the individual and elevate the standards of living that the patients enjoy and give the relatives of these patients some peace of mind knowing that most of the probable emergencies and scenarios are being prevented.
2.) Respite care
Respite care is usually given during a stay in the hospital to take the pressure off the usual caregiver. It is usually a short-term arrangement and lasts about less than a month per year. It can be done in the hospital which is advantageous because the patient does not need to be transferred anymore and will save the patient time, money, and the energy which is required when moving from one healthcare facility to another. It can also be done at the home of the patient and an agency will provide care for the patient, which is also has its advantages one of which is that the patient will return to a familiar environment and may feel more relaxed during his stay at home. The potential disadvantage of this is that when a medical emergency occurs, the patients has to be taken back again to the hospital in short notice and the process may give unnecessary stress to the patient.
3.) Nursing homes
Nursing homes are very popular here in New Zealand and are heavily subsidized by the government. Based on what I’ve heard from my friends and classmates, the elderly clients living in a nursing home are very relaxed and are well taken care of. They eat at the right time, have people to talk to, and it decreases the chance of them feeling alone and isolated. They are checked-up by a physician before being admitted to a nursing home because each client is unique and they need to find out what medications they need and the additional care that they may require. The staff working at nursing homes is also trained to deal with geriatric clients. These healthcare facilities also retain most of their staff and has a low rate of staff turnover to ensure that the continuity of care is established and maintained so that the patients will have less adjustment every time that there is a new staff member in the facility.
4.) Domiciliary Care
In Domiciliary care, the patient is living in his own home but he is still being assisted by support workers in doing activities of daily living, which includes assisting with the personal care of the client, and accompanying the client in going to appointments, and helping the client in preparing meal. The family of the client should always be involved in planning his care because they are the ones who know the client the best and would know what he would want in a certain situation and they can then pass these information to the support worker assigned to the client.
Pharmacists are essential since they educate the client in knowing what drugs to take and their indications, contraindications, side effects, and adverse effects. They also educate the client in knowing the different drug interactions so that they know if drugs are safe to take together and if they should take the drugs with meals or without. They also teach the client how to take the drugs when there is a special indication (sublingual, inhaler, etc.) needed to take the drug. They also educate the client in what they can’t and can do with the drugs, like splitting a tablet into two, and giving the client a complete printout of the schedule of the drugs.
6.) End of Life Support
The client can choose where he wants to stay during the last days of his life. Whether it is in a nursing home, a hospital, or at home, the client deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. There is a type of care which we call palliative care. This type of care alleviates the symptoms of a certain client. For example, if the client is suffering from colon cancer and he suddenly obtains a cough or a flu, then the treatment of that cough or flu is part of the palliative care of that client. It is about maintaining the “quality of life” of the patient.
- Social Isolation of the individual and their families
Most of the elderly clients feel isolated from the community because most people don’t want anything to do with them due to the misconception that most people who are retired or over the age of 65 are fragile and weak people who will only be liabilities and not assets. This can lead to depression of the elder because he or she feels disconnected to the society and he or she may feel unwelcome by the world or the community that they grew up in. the family may feel that they are isolated because of the elderly patient who is with them and this pressure from society makes them disassociate themselves with the elder in their care, and in turn will make the individual more isolated.
- Assumption of automatic loss of independence
Out of all the stigmas related to geriatric care, I think this is the one stigma that has the most impact on how individuals, families, and society as a whole view caring for the elderly. This has the most negative effect on how geriatric care is viewed because most people are unwilling to care for a fully dependent patient, not knowing that the patient can still perform activities of daily living. Family members and healthcare providers should try to help the patient maintain their skills for them not to be fully dependent on the people who are taking care of them.
- Unable to make decisions about own care
One of the worst stigmas that elderly clients have to undergo is that there is the misconception that they can no longer decide for themselves and that they are merely living out the rest of their days. They are fully capable of making their own informed decisions about how healthcare professionals should handle their care plan and they should always have a say in their plan of care.
- Dissatisfying interactions with the medical community
Unfortunately, this is a recurring problem in most medical fields not only in geriatrics. Sometimes members of the healthcare community do not have or do not take the time in talking to the clients and most will not explain properly to the patient what they are experiencing and what their options to treatment are and only expect other healthcare professionals to do it. This makes the patient confused and doubtful of how the medical community is treating him or her. This may lead to loss of established rapport between the healthcare providers and the patient because a healthcare professional did not have a few minutes to spare to talk to the client and reassure the client properly that the healthcare team will make sure that the client is comfortable and that the team will properly carry out all medical procedures with care and the client will be treated with dignity and respect at all times.
- Uncertainty of support services and treatments
Due to the lack of time of some of the medical professionals in explaining treatment options and services to the patients, the client is now unsure of what will happen to him or what his plan of care is. The patient is kept in the dark about how his care will be handled by those assigned to take care of him. This is a fundamental flaw in providing care because the client should always be included in planning his care because he knows best what he wants and he should always be given choices on whether he wants a certain service or treatment and he should be given the right to decline the treatment or the service if he so chooses.
There are a lot of healthcare organizations in New Zealand that provide useful services to the elderly clients. Most of them are advocates of the elderly and prevent abuse and isolation. Some of them offer monetary benefits, discounts, and even free fare when using the public transport system. All are very useful especially because elderly clients usually only get their money from their pension. There are also a variety of healthcare facilities to choose from when choosing where the best place to receive care is. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages and it is up to the individual, his family, and his healthcare provider to determine which facility will be the best for the needs of the client.
As person with experience working with geriatric clients, I recommend that the general public be properly educated about geriatric care. I believe that with proper education, we can eradicate most of the misconceptions surrounding geriatric care. I also recommend that we look into the current services provided to the elderly people here in New Zealand and find ways to improve on them. We can start by doing a survey of people ages 65 and above as to what they feel is needed so that we can get a better insight about their priorities and what services and benefits they want.
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