A better respite for our elderlies

Health Minister launches the priority signage on an international day for older persons observed in Thimphu

October has been declared as “the month of elderly” to provide comprehensive health screening services throughout the month

LHAKPA TSHERING

Thimphu

There seems to be respite at the end of the tunnel – literally!

For the population 65 years and above and people living with disabilities who present to health facilities for numerous health problems and taking different medications can become overwhelming.

With the elder citizens becoming the major users of hospital services, the elderly care program provides a new approach to care for older adults and people living with disabilities by focusing on their health goals and values.

As the cornerstone of providing the best care, the health ministry launched priority signage across the health facilities in the country, and a health and wellbeing handbook for all the older people who visit the health facilities.

Health minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that the elder people no longer have to wait to avail themselves of the services in health facilities. “This will prioritize the services to the elder people,” she said at the launch of the program on 1 October in Thimphu.

Lyonpo added that the health and wellbeing handbook will help record all the medical conditions and treatment including home-bound care needs and follow-up check-ups.

To the service for elderly people, October month has been declared as “the month of elderly” with providing comprehensive health screening services such as screenings including various non-communicable diseases and assessment of mental health conditions for the elderly population.

Given the significance of October, Lyonpo said, it is a special month in the history of Bhutan as it is the month of the Royal Wedding and the elderly care program is to pay tribute and respect to senior citizens in the country.

The ministry says the initiative is timely and highly relevant as there are growing occurrences of mental health illnesses amongst the elderly population along with an anticipated rise in the incidence of non-communicable diseases. 

In addition, Lyonpo said that elderly people are respected in Bhutan, and the role of a parent to bring up a child is highlighted in the common phrase that often uses “drenchengipham” which undoubtedly indicates the responsibilities that we must shoulder to take care of the aging family.

“These services are provided not only when a person becomes sick. But it will really benefit prevention in a sustainable manner,” she said. “For instance, if a small eye pain can be treated early, it does not cause damage and blindness.”

Expressing her deep concerns regarding elder people, especially older people with underlying medical conditions, Lyonpo said, waiting for the treatment until something major happens is becoming late for prevention services.

“Eventually, we will offer walking sticks to those elderly people who cannot walk and eyeglasses to those having vision problems,” she said.

The elderly care program will function in aligning health systems to the needs of the older population, support capacity building in the care of older people, and develop age-friendly environments.

And also includes the promotion of healthy aging in the context of the existing social and cultural practices, support, and development of sustainable and equitable systems for providing long-term care through the palliative care approach.

This is aimed at narrowing the gap and promoting people-centered health services with care and compassion.

Meanwhile, the health ministry has also lined-listed all the elderly population in the country of which some 15,000 accounting for34 percent of them live with various medical conditions from 42,632 elderly persons.