Health of older women – issues, solutions and prevention –CME Conference in Bangalore
"An ageing society is evolving, which, for the most part, is female".Older women outnumber older malesworld wide. The women lives longer and the life expectancy for females is 66.1yrs in India. Elderly Women is both care giver and care taker. The three main principles followed by older women in India are sacrifice,suffer and ignore. The women live longer and so are the number of health and social issues they come across.There are 504 registered older personsinmy geriatric clinic, of which the older women constitute 38%.We at geriatric clinic take care of physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of health in older people. We provide comprehensive health care including dental, eye and ear care. The other services provided are psychiatry, counsellingand physiotherapy. The awareness talks on common diseases are organised for the older people at regular intervals. Health check up camps exclusively for women in slum area are also carried out which helps in identifying women at risk and also wo are unaware about the disease they are living with..
There is delay in seeking health services due to either financial constraints, staying alone, Co morbid conditions like Osteoarthritis, Stroke, Blindness which restrict their activities, the children ignore them for their medical attention. They prefer to use drugs meant for spouse or a friend, and on the counter drugs initially to save money and she doesn’t want to burden her son’s budget.
The Common health related problems in older womenareAnaemia ,Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Depression, Cataract, Fracture Neck Femur, Diabetes Mellitus, Stroke, Prolapse uterus , Pneumonia , Malignancies,Urinary Incontinence/ Urinary Tract infection and osteoporosis. The follow up rate is very poor in older women. Once they get relief of major symptoms, they stop taking drugs and also they don’t turn up for follow up as advised by consultant.
Few older women in home are also subject to abuse. The risk factors are being widow, dependent on children, being bed ridden and adjustment disorders.
The older women need to attend health camps,get their blood pressure and sugar levels measured frequently, engage in social activities, and attend all social gatherings. They should not ignore symptoms and blame the age for the new symptoms that they develop. They should keep themselves physically and mentally active by means of practicing yoga, meditation and listening to the pravachanas from spiritual leaders.
Various diseases can be prevented in older women like osteoporosis, falls related injuries and pneumonia. Supplementation of Vitamin D and calcium to those who are risk will prevent osteoporosis. Correction of vision and balance disorders will prevent falls. The pneumonia can be prevented by use of influenza and pneumococcal vaccine. The women should avoid exposure to smoke in home and stop chewing tobacco to lead a good quality of life.
I feel in next decade or two, we will have older women who shall be empowered with good financial status which will help lead a dignified life. This is because the present status of working women is much higher compared to last two decades. When these large number of working women retire from services they shall be financiallyin better position.Creating awareness regarding health issues is also important as non communicable diseases are on rise in women. Measures toward healthy life style, getting adjustedwith new generation, taking preventive measures and being active both physically and socially will help lead a good quality of life. Elderly women health care is at stake of health professionals, policy makers and care givers.She gives her best to family and society when she is healthy but receives less when she needs it most.