Elderly care in the future
A broad range of studies, based on contrasted data, paint an inevitably gloomy picture of the future of elderly welfare. These studies are founded on data such as the ageing of the so-called baby boom generation, a lack of qualified gerontology specialists or lower birth rates, all of which pose, at least, a challenge for the future.
Generally, the care and welfare of those in a situation of dependency or with diminishing capabilities falls upon the close family. This full-time job is vital for maintaining the quality of life of the elderly, although nobody would deny the necessary role of professional care: medical and welfare services.
The recent recession has hit these essential services hard, worsening the welfare situation. Nonetheless, there is a more worrying situation emerging, which has been sometime in the making: the increasing ratio of the population at retirement age to younger generations. Considering the growing number of octogenarians, a high proportion of whom are in a situation of dependency, the forecasts are enough to scare anybody, particularly when the professionals in charge of their care are outnumbered by their elders.
According to forecasts, in Spain, by 2034 there will be just three people aged 45-64 for each person over the age of eighty, whilst in 2000 there were six. The problem becomes even more evident if we take into account that not all the people are dedicated to caring for the elderly, nor are all dependents over the age of eighty. Moreover, life expectancy will surely increase in the future, further exacerbating the dilemma.
Despite the grim outlook, alternatives do exist, making progress to improve the situation. Such alternatives range from empowering the patient to become more responsible for their own care, providing the maximum autonomy possible to the non-dependent elderly, helping professionals carry out their work more efficiently and allowing the patient’s close circle of friends and family to contribute to their welfare in a more useful manner.
Mobile phone applications, telecare systems, patient social networking sites and other innovations have arrived on the scene, and they are here to stay. What is more, they are here to solve the problem. Take the Kwido platform for instance, capable of reducing hospital admissions by up to 400% and allowing geriatric care professionals to carry out their work more effectively thanks to its video conference system, reminders for elderly patients to take medication or remote health monitoring.