Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Change of mindset in care of elderly, says ageing expert

Published:Friday | August 9, 2019 | 12:11 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Dr Adella Campbell (left), head of the Caribbean School of Nursing at the University of Technology Jamaica, presents a book and a plaque to Dr Denise Eldemire-Shearer, senior lecturer in the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, during the Fourth Annual Biennial Nursing Conference held at UTech's St Andrew campus yesterday.
Dr Adella Campbell (left), head of the Caribbean School of Nursing at the University of Technology Jamaica, presents a book and a plaque to Dr Denise Eldemire-Shearer, senior lecturer in the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, during the Fourth Annual Biennial Nursing Conference held at UTech's St Andrew campus yesterday.

Demanding a change in mindset, Professor Denise Eldemire-Shearer, director of the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre at The University of the West Indies, is describing as “cruelty” the way the elderly are being cared for by healthcare professionals.

“You are assessing you patients and your clients because not all will be patients – some will be your relatives. What can you do to ensure that they don’t need your help? I know that’s a challenge for nurses because you’ve been trained to care, but guess what? Caring for older people is actually cruelty.

“Caring for older people is cruelty because you take away their sense of independence, you take away their sense of being somebody. So it’s about helping [them] to care for themselves. It’s not that you are not supposed to do anything,” Eldemire-Shearer told nurses yesterday.

She was delivering the keynote address at the 4th Biennial Nursing and Midwifery Conference at the University of Technology, Jamaica, in St Andrew, held under the theme ‘Promoting Health Ageing Through Nursing and Midwifery Research’.

The two-day conference ends today.

The ageing expert said that the focus should be on making elderly people retain as much independence as possible.

“Whatever else you leave here with as a nurse or a midwife ... the mantra of geriatric medicine is function. It’s not curing a disease. It’s function. Curing a disease may be part of it, controlling a disease may be part of it, but it’s about making sure people are functional. So post-stroke, it’s about putting Velcro on pajamas so they can do them up themselves. It’s about function, function, function,” Eldemire-Shearer said.

She said that there needs to be greater emphasis on community care, which would see more elderly people staying at home rather than being placed in a golden age facility or being abandoned.

“I think that as a country, we need to look at long-term care from the perspective of the community ... . We do need to look at community care. Community care needs support. Half of the abandonment cases in hospitals are families who could not manage. They are not families who do not care. So where are our community services that could go in once per day to do that? We need to think outside the box.”

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com