October 26, 2021
5 Ways We Can Support the Needs of the Elderly in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a predominantly young country with a median age of just over 32. However, by 2050, the number of people over 65 will increase twelve-fold, creating financial, social, and medical pressures for families and the UAE government. It is critical, therefore, to address the topic of aging and aged care and consider what and how we can plan for the future.
Over the last year, the Al Qasimi Foundation has been working to increase public awareness of aging and aged care and gather insight into the actions needed to sustain an effective support system for the UAE's aging population. This work included the publication of the aging and aged care study and the release of a podcast with a leading geriatrician. Our research revealed that the country's shifting demographics, changes in the patterns of disease and dependency, older peoples' expectations, and shifting family structure will create pressure on the demand for aged care in the future. While policymakers and public stakeholders must work to create a robust aged care system, in the meantime, it is our responsibility to understand better the challenges faced by our elderly loved ones and meet their needs. Based on our research, we have outlined five ways we can meet the needs of our elderly relatives and/or friends.
- Create a proper care plan
We need to understand that every senior has different needs. While some seniors may only need occasional assistance with household chores, others may be managing a serious illness and require more extensive assistance. We must arrange a proper care plan that suits them based on their unique requirements. A suitable care plan should be created in consultation with the elderly, their doctor, and family members. Plans can vary from daily to-do lists to detailed weekly accounts of amounts and types of care provided. To create an effective strategy, or reevaluate our current approach to caregiving, we should consider the senior's health conditions, medications, healthcare providers, emergency contacts, and caregiver resources.
- Respect seniors' wishes regarding care
Some seniors may find the transition to younger members of the family providing for their care challenging. Therefore, it is essential to be respectful of their changing roles and abilities. For example, some seniors may prefer having paid help for more vulnerable care like getting dressed or taking a bath. If an elderly family member asks for a paid caregiver, we should respect their wishes and do our best to make them comfortable by getting them professional and proficient care.
- Resist vulnerability through empowerment
Little things can make a big difference in a senior's life and mood. In old age, fears and worries are usually very high. Our loved ones can get worried about losing the ability to make their own decisions or people taking advantage of them. Subsequently, supporting seniors and making them feel more empowered will give them a stronger sense of purpose and control over their lives and future. This could be achieved by regular verbal affirmations and encouraging and enabling them to do things they enjoy.
- Help them maintain their physical health
Providing and educating our elderly loved ones on healthy lifestyles, identifying their physical health needs, and setting a well-rounded care plan can substantially impact their overall wellbeing. Supporting seniors to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet will allow them to stay energized and get the nutrients they need, lowering their risk of developing chronic health conditions. Moreover, regular physical activity also prevents many health problems that come with age. It also helps them maintain their muscles to keep doing day-to-day activities without becoming dependent on others.
- Support their mental health and wellbeing
It is essential to ensure that our elderly loved ones feel like they have a life of their own. If they feel helpless or that they are losing the agency to make their own choices, this will negatively affect their mood. We need to be conscious of their mental health and ensure we provide them with social engagement and encourage them to do the things they enjoy. This can be achieved by helping them find people to spend time with outside the family, perhaps those with similar interests or from the same generation. They can enjoy a virtual chat with a long-distance family member or a check-in phone call from an old friend. A few minutes of conversation can greatly impact our loved one's mood and improve their long-term mental health.
As the population of the UAE ages, it is essential that we prioritize the wellbeing of our elderly and help them maintain a high quality of life. It is the responsibility of our collective society to ensure that seniors have access to adequate support and remain able to pursue the things they enjoy. Whether we are family, friends, or government policymakers, we all have a part to play in ensuring every member of our community is empowered to live a full and meaningful life, regardless of their age. We should also all start thinking and planning for our own old age and consider how our current choices will affect our health, social, and economic stability as seniors.