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Exercise patience with the elderly, says PAHO/WHO representative


THE Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Representative to Jamaica, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands is encouraging caregivers and family members to exercise patience with the elderly.

The call for kindness coincided with the United Nation’s Observation of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day last Tuesday.

The WHO defines elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship, where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

Elder abuse can take various forms, such as physical, psychological and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

“The [novel] coronavirus pandemic and the associated health precautions have greatly impacted older people. Opportunities to visit friends, go outdoors, and even visit churches in-person are reduced due to the high mortality rate among this group. It, therefore, means that they are increasingly dependent on family members and caregivers for support and assistance,” said Dr Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, the PAHO/WHO representative.

“This new normal requires us to be more patient with the elderly and take time to care for their psychosocial needs while avoiding neglect. Age is something that we cannot avoid, but a culture of care is critical to maintain dignity and protect their human rights,” she added.

The years 2021 to 2030 were declared the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing. Its aim is to create healthy environments and opportunities that enable older people to fulfil their potential in dignity and equality. As a proactive step, [PAHO] is promoting the International Accreditation of Competences in Health Care for Older Persons (ACAPEM) for health professionals with an emphasis on developing competencies.

“Population aging is a worldwide phenomenon which occurs rapidly in Caribbean countries. Our elderly have unique needs and, even as we discourage their abuse, we encourage people to take the extra time to help an elderly relative to try new activities and fulfil their passions,” said Theodore-Gandi.

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