Senior citizens form the most vulnerable sections of our society especially if they are living on their own. They are the ones who tend to neglect their health when they require that the most. This is because of many factors like fear of unknown, physical limitations in visiting the right kind of doctors, lack of knowledge, apprehension of going to big hospitals etc. as a result, many seniors tend to ignore the warning signs regarding their health and land up into situations of severe diseases, complications and/or medical emergencies. At this stage, the chance of recovery goes down and the burden of treatment goes up.
Unfortunately, the concept of providing preventive healthcare is not very popular in our country, partly due to ignorance and partly due to the feeling that it’s not important. Also, elders staying in tier 2 and tier 3 cities/ towns have limited or no access to good healthcare infrastructure, thereby not able to get themselves checked up at regular intervals. Little do people realize that subjecting elders to regular preventive health checks can help in early diagnosis of diseases and complications, better management and therefore better health outcomes.
Statistics : India being the second most populous country in the world, will be having about 11% of total population above 60 years of age by the year 2025. It has been found that the disease burden in elderly is very high. Most common ones are heart diseases, cancers, kidney diseases etc. It is estimated that 75% of the elderly suffer from some chronic diseases. Around 40% of this segment has some form of disability and also 20% have some mental illness. Many of these chronic diseases may have life threatening complications if not managed wisely.
It is known that prevalence of illness increases with age while life expectancy goes down.
Here comes the important role of preventive health care, especially for senior citizens to help to prevent chronic diseases, reduce associated complications and lower functional limitations. They are important as they cover 3 stages of disease development:
- Before it occurs: certain diseases can totally be prevented by taking appropriate action at the right time. Eg. Vaccinations: these can prevent serious life threatening infections like hepatitis, cervical cancer, tetanus, flu and its complications etc. Elders don’t realise that vaccination is not only for children but for them too.
- Before it is clinically evident: Many diseases lie dormant in the body only to come up at a later time, and many times they may have spread or started to cause complications. Eg. cancer, diabetes, hypertension etc. Cancer screenings can help in early detection and thereby corrective treatment of this life threatening situation.
- Early detection once the disease is established thereby preventing the maximal impact of the disease. Once a disease has already been established, then regular monitoring or screening helps to prevent complications by taking immediate corrective actions.
A lot of activities are done and these are different for different individuals and vary depending upon preexisting health status and health conditions. These activities can include:
- Vaccinations against diseases like pneumonia, influenza
- Cancer screening like breast, cervix, colon etc.
- Risk factor screening for potentially lethal conditions like Stroke, Heart attack, which include hypertension, diabetes Mellitus, Lipid disorders etc.
- Psychological assessment for depression or other conditions
- Alcoholism and other addictions
- Dietary guidance and counselling to prevent obesity and malnutrition.
- Vision and hearing assessment; loss of which leads to physical limitations and psychological effects.
In view of all this it is imperative for the elders to get their health status monitored at regular intervals.
Regular health checkups for preventive care should be done with the guidance of a qualified medical specialist. Health checkup is done on the basis of preexisting health conditions, age, sex and lifestyle of the person. Tests done for one person may not be enough or appropriate for the other. Also, the frequency of getting these checkups may vary from one person to another. Certain tests may be required once in 3 months (eg. diabetes screening) to maybe once in 2-3 years (eg. breast cancer and cervical cancer screening). A medical specialist will be able to tailor make the appropriate tests for an individual depending upon the baseline health status. It is imperative to get relevant screening procedures only rather than going for commercially available packages without relevance.
It is known that elders who obtain preventive health services tend to remain healthy and physically independent and live a good quality life. A regular comprehensive health screening procedure ensures a good quality life for the elders.
We at Care4Parents bring comprehensive healthcare solutions for senior citizens in India. We provide preventive healthcare with the help of technology, by providing video consultations, remote health monitoring and much more.