With increasing life expectancy and declining fertility rates, it is expected that the percentage of elderly persons will continue to rise globally in the coming years. According to the United Nations 2019 World Population Ageing Report, in Nigeria alone, it is projected that the proportion of older persons (60 years and older) will increase from 3.1per cent in 2019 to 7.8 per cent by 2050. A publication by UN DESA Population Division World Population Ageing 2017 also states that the Nigerian older population will grow from 9 million in 2016 to 26 million by 2050.
With this increase in the population of the elderly, it is foreseeable that more people will be at risk of developing chronic diseases, dementia, disabilities, loneliness, and depression that often accompany advanced old age. Government must, therefore, explore diverse care options and adopt effective solutions that will meet the evolving needs of the elderly population. Home healthcare offers a vital and cost-effective solution for meeting the healthcare needs of older adults and their families. Home healthcare for the elderly represents a transformative and necessary shift in elderly care models.
In concept and practice, home healthcare refers to a wide range of healthcare services provided to individuals in their own homes. It encompasses a multidisciplinary approach, including doctors’ house calls, skilled nursing care, personal care and assistance with activities of daily living, rehabilitation therapies, chronic disease management, etc. Home healthcare is usually less expensive, more convenient than, and just as effective as care received in a healthcare facility. It is also the most cost-effective way to increase access to primary healthcare services for the elderly and disabled populations.
An important benefit of home healthcare is that it is grounded in evidence-based practices and standards of care that ensure patients receive the right care at the right time in their homes. With home healthcare, patients receive one-on-one attention and a care plan that is tailored to their specific needs. This makes treatment more effective and builds trust between the patient, the family, and the home healthcare team. Providing care for the elderly in the comfort of their homes also enhances the patients’ well-being and promotes their independence, and overall quality of life.
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With its affordability, flexibility, and personalised care, home healthcare is fast becoming the go-to solution for families who want to ensure that their loved ones receive the best possible care in their later years. It is time the government recognises the importance of home healthcare and takes proactive steps towards its implementation as a vital component of its healthcare strategies. By embracing this idea, the government can enhance the well-being of its elderly citizens, and create a more sustainable and compassionate approach to elder care that aligns with international best practices.
A national home healthcare programme for the elderly in Nigeria will also bring immense value and benefits to the country as a whole. Some compelling reasons why the government should establish home healthcare for the elderly in Nigeria will include:
- Improved Access to Care: By establishing home healthcare for the elderly, the government can bridge this gap and bring essential healthcare services directly to the homes of elderly individuals. This ensures that they receive timely and convenient care, eliminating barriers to access and improving health outcomes.
- Enhanced quality of life: Home healthcare promotes older adults’ well-being and quality of life by preserving their dignity, autonomy, and independence. This can result in improved quality of life, increased care satisfaction, and positive mental and emotional health impacts for the patient and the family.
- Reduced burden on hospital resources: Home healthcare can prevent unnecessary hospitalisation, facilitate early discharge from hospitals, and provide post-hospitalisation care at home. This can help optimise the utilisation of hospital resources, reduce healthcare costs, and alleviate the strain on the healthcare system.
- Economic benefits: It can create job opportunities for healthcare professionals, generate revenue through healthcare services, and contribute to the state’s overall economic growth and development.
- Preventive and holistic care: By delivering care in the home setting, healthcare professionals can conduct comprehensive assessments, monitor health conditions, and identify potential risks or early signs of deterioration, which are essential for maintaining optimal health in the elderly population.
- Family and community engagement: Establishing home healthcare for the elderly encourages the involvement of family caregivers and the broader community. The government can strengthen social support networks and promote intergenerational bonds by facilitating family engagement.
Home healthcare for the elderly is an idea whose time has come. The establishment of such a programme in Nigeria will not only reflect the government’s dedication to the well-being of its ageing population, but will also bring numerous benefits to the nation as a whole, including improved access to care, cost-effectiveness, enhanced quality of life, preventive care, and job creation.
Implementing home healthcare for the elderly at the national level will require strategic planning, collaborative networks, and investment in education and training. To ensure the efficacy of the programme, collaboration between the public and private sectors is also critical.
Ikechukwu Moses Okoye wrote from Abuja