Prepare for your senior years.
That was the advice of Minister of Health Donville Inniss to youth recently as he addressed the challenging issue of caring for the elderly.
The minister, who had moments before witnessed the handing over of equipment by the Barbados Crafts Guild to the Gordon Cummins Hospital, commented that some 30 elderly persons had been recently transferred from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to the district hospitals.
While they had reached the stage that they could be discharged from the QEH, he said the individuals still needed further health care.
Additionally, the minister said he had also instructed his staff within the ministry to ensure that those who could contribute to their own care in the future did so.
“Elderly care is not cheap and I think the message must go forth if we are to do something about this going forward, that younger Barbadians must start to prepare for their own circumstances when they get old and not wait until you are 55 years to start thinking about what to do in the event that anything goes wrong with your health at 65,” he said.
The ministry had a dilemma now, he added, where they had to take care of an increasingly elderly population who had to be institutionalised, coupled with the young who were failing to prepare for later years.
“I think there is a mindset that the state will always have money and resources to house all who need to be housed. That is a myth that we have to face up to. In terms of what the ministry is doing …, we have enacted a policy that those who are coming under our care with recommendations to be placed in nursing homes, subject to a socio-economic assessment where we work with the family to determine what your income is, or assets and what you can contribute to your care in terms of private nursing homes.”
Inniss said the average care could range about $2,400 for a monthly stay in a private home, adding that before Government was footing such a bill for some 200 elderly patients to the tune of about $6.5 million per year.
He said the cost was not just the home, but doctors to do periodic visits and supplies such as pampers and other essentials.
“I’ve always felt it a little bit unconscionable that individuals could be getting pension or have rental income or properties and others benefit from that, and then other taxpayers are forced to contribute to the care of such individuals. I think that is wrong,” said the health minister.
There were currently about 10 requests being processed which could contribute about $8,000 per month towards their care.
“That allows us then with our limited resources to help take care of more, particularly those who, due to no fault of their own, were not in a position to have savings or relatives who can take care of them,” he said, adding that they knew there would be cases that the state would have to take responsibility for, but those who could help themselves should. (LB)