Nepal | April 07, 2020

Caregiving for elderly: Training is crucial

Prapti Gautam

Older people have distinct needs and priorities, which require special attention. Quality training for caregivers hence is crucial to ensure that they are equipped with necessary skills to provide the best care and services to the elderly

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

The population structure of the world is changing, and Nepal is no exception, where birth rate is declining and life expectancy is increasing. If this continues, the population pyramid will turn upside down in the near future. Elderly entering to the ageing community is growing by the day, giving rise to the problems relating to elder population.

Therefore, quality and continuous training for caregivers is crucial to ensure that they are equipped with necessary skills to provide the best care and services as possible to the elderly population.

Elderly people need respect, support and care; they should never be an object of neglect. Older people have distinctive needs and priorities than adults which require special attention, but quite often, families and society are not skilled enough to handle the unique situation that eventually affects older people. So in order to take good care of them, one should receive training that enhances the capacity for delivering the quality of services.  This kind of training prepares individuals to understand the condition (of the elderly) and how to handle the situation as required. There are various kinds of health condition such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia that require special attention. Training helps the individual to handle the situation without fear of lack of knowledge and provide best care to elderly as required.

What are the benefits of the training?

It not only acts as an initiative to create a better world for older people but also employs the individual to provide good care and services. For instance, the elderly often suffer from various kinds of health issues and require medication on time, and this training gives them ability to understand older people from their perspective which makes it easier for them to handle the situation. As a result, there is a better interaction between the caregiver and the care receiver which is very imperative because when it comes to caregiving, important changes in health/behaviour should be identified and reported to physicians or family members as soon as possible.

However, there are some challenges in Nepal.

In Nepal implementation of such curriculum is quite difficult due to various reasons and often due to lack of resources, fund and experts to impart the training.

Despite this, many organisations are planning to develop the curriculum focusing on producing human resources who can take good care of the special needs of the elderly. This, however, is yet to be put into action.

There are some important areas we have to put focus on that directly or indirectly affect the health of the caregiver and care receiver.

Firstly, nutrition. Nutrition is a key component for the welfare of older people. It is essential for a caregiver to understand the importance of nutritious food for the elderly, which will allow them to plan a healthy balance diet according to their needs. Some of the older people are unable to perform even their daily activities and require constant support. Therefore tasks like bathing, combing, brushing teeth are some of the tasks a caregiver should be able to perform when required. Additionally, a caregiver should keep in mind that s/he should not only provide hygiene and personal care for their clients but also maintain their own personal hygiene. There are some specific senior equipment products—canes, walker and wheelchair—and a caregiver must know how to handle them for their safety as well as of the elderly.

Patients of Alzheimer’s and dementia require extra attention and handing them can be a difficult task. Properly trained personnel are required to look after them. Understanding the disease progress over the time is very crucial, which requires special care and attention. Therefore professionals should be aware of the danger signs and communicate to the physicians or family members immediately if they notice any changes in patients.

Emergency situation can arise anytime hence, a caregiver should know how to how handle these situations.  For example, they should be able to sense the possible causalities due to emergency situations.

Elderly patients require medication on time and they might not be able to remember it, so a caregiver must have a better understanding of medication management, which is an important aspect of elderly caregiving.

At times caregivers are so engrossed in their job of taking care of the elderly that they tend to forget to take care of themselves. They should attach an equal importance to their own health and wellbeing. An unhealthy caregiver can have profound health implications on the elderly. Developing a good curriculum and producing skilled caregivers increases awareness about how important their role can be in creating a better world for the elder population to live in.

Training while is more related to technical aspects, the most crucial factor in elderly caregiving is people’s attitude towards the older population. Unless one develops compassion and empathy for the elderly, s/he cannot take good care of the senior citizens. The elderly do not expect much from others—they just want some care and respect.

Gautam is associated with Ageing Nepal, an organisation promoting an age-friendly environment with facilities and services to suit the personal needs of older adults


A version of this article appears in print on September 20, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

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