UAE reviews strategy, plans to expand home care
The UAE is reviewing its strategy on care for the elderly and planning to expand its coverage of home care.
Officials from the Ministry of Health and Dubai Health Authority (DHA) met on Thursday to present recommendations to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on how to improve elderly home care services in the country.
An almost three-fold increase in the number of the elderly - from 4.2 to 10.6 per cent - between 1995 and 2010 was among the few reasons that contributed to the urgent need for home care, officials discussed. "There was a well-know case of an old man being abused by his care-giver. It was after that the leaders decided to focus greatly on this issue and the Elderly Home was established in 1988," said Dr Jenan Abdul Samad, from the social services department for the elderly in Sharjah. "However, our aim is not to admit patients in hospitals ... we want them to stay with their families and we want the families to learn how to care for them."
A study conducted by the ministry in Ras Al Khaimah in 2007 found that 50 per cent of the elderly patients who are permanently admitted to hospitals can be discharged if home care is available.
Dr Alia Al Kaabi, head of the elderly services programme at the ministry said the programme is only for Emiratis. "Expats come to the UAE young and leave at the age of 60, so they do not require such intensive home care programmes," she said. Currently, there are 656 UAE nationals - both male and female - enrolled in the programme from across the UAE. "For an elderly person to be eligible for the home care programme, he/she has to be referred from hospital," explained Dr Alia. "We then dispatch a team of nurses, a physician and a pharmacist to see the condition of the patient and assess how many home visits are required."
"The programme is continuous, comprehensive and cost effective," explained Dr Alia, adding that it delivers healthcare, depending on the needs. It also provides free health care services including medicine and equipment. Patients can either be referred by hospitals, or families can register them in the PHCs following which each case will be assessed individually.
According to estimates, by 2020, the elderly population in the UAE is expected to be 20 per cent of the entire population.
However, the programme still faces challenges such as lack of geriatricians, a system that is yet to be unified across the emirates, lack of financing and the need to expand geographical coverage.
"We urgently need to expand home care to include far off areas. People now live longer as a result of improved living conditions and better healthcare," said Dr Alia.
Hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, bedsores and also psychiatric illness are among the common diseases that nursing teams have to treat at home.
Recommendations on how to improve the existing programme have been sent to WHO. Dr Manar Mostafa from WHO's regional office said that the Ministry of Higher Education in the UAE should include geriatric care in its curriculum.
Dr. Alia Al Kaabi during the workshop on "Review of the elderly health strategy" organized by Ministry of Health at Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai on Thursday 17, September 2015.