DO we need this model in the Philippines? Yes, as another option, but with adaptations. For most of the care needs described in the first part of this column, we would hire a helper or caregiver who stays with the family 24/7. But are they professionally trained and experienced? Do they know how to handle long-term care? No. And this is where the home-care model comes in. The home-care companies supply dedicated nurses and caregivers who are trained in long-term care. The head nurses and doctors are the case managers who assist and guide the family and helpers with the care needs, so that the family can still continue to live a normal life.
The home-care model is a more culturally accepted option than the nursing-home model. However, sometimes, home care reaches its limits, and this happens especially with dementia patients, as it can be very difficult for a family and the patient to continue living together. Very often, this is not only a burden for the family, but also for the affected senior.
This is why we will see more of the nursing homes’ care services increasing in the Philippines as a response to aging, and we should accept that they do not clash with the culture, but, rather, assist in giving proper care to seniors.
It is in this context that I was able to observe, in the last few years, that hospitals are widely accepted in the Philippines, and it is common to have elderly patients for weeks or months staying there, despite the fact that they no longer need immediate medical treatment. Doesn’t it make more sense to transfer them to a place that feels more like home or return them to their own homes and avail themselves of professional home health-care services?
But it is also up to the private sector to come up with models that do not only cater to the needs of the resident and his or her family, but also offer other services to them. A nursing home does not need to be the last option for a family; it can also be a lifestyle product. One of the industry leaders from Malaysia, Choe Lam Tan of Jeta Care, shared an interesting story to the participants of the Retirement & Healthcare Master Class at the Manila Marriott Hotel on November 5. He told us about a woman who was living with her father, who was in his 70s and had dementia. They visited the Jeta Care Home’s restaurant regularly for lunch. After a while the father started making friends with some of the residents and he insisted on visiting it more frequently. A few months later the woman decided to rent a room for him at Jeta when she needed to go on a vacation. Much to her surprise, her father decided that he wanted to stay in the facility, as he made many friends there and he was not left alone when she went to work.
This story shows that a nursing home can become a well-received place for seniors, as they are with people who belong, more or less, to the same generation and have the same interests. Additionally, they are engaged in activities that slow down the dementia’s progress, and make them feel that they are needed and can still contribute to the society.
Marc Daubenbuechel is the executive director of the Retirement & Healthcare Coalition. He is also the project manager of the Philippine Healthcare Initiative, as well as at the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. Send your comments to [email protected].