Help for the elderly after hospital stays

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 April, 2007, 12:00am

Trial scheme offers one-stop support service

A trial scheme will provide a one-stop support service to elderly people who are discharged from hospital.

The chairman of the Elderly Commission, Leong Che-hung, said the service would provide better care to the elderly at home and lower chances of readmission.

The government has allocated HK$96 million to implement the trial scheme in two districts over the next four years.

Dr Leong said taking care of the elderly in the community after they have been discharged was as important as treating them in hospital.

For example, stroke patients may have difficulty moving around and be unable to take care of themselves. The situation could be worse if they lived alone or in a building with no lifts, Dr Leong said.

He said a multidisciplinary team would be set up to provide a one-stop support service to needy elderly people.

Trained carers would take care of the elderly, for example, assisting them with meals and helping them shower and get dressed, while nurses would act as the managers of the services.

The carers also would follow up on patients' medication and monitor their recovery. They would observe the person's living conditions to see if special equipment was needed for them to live at home.

Some training and health-care knowledge would also be provided to the families of these patients so that they knew how to better care for the elderly. Counselling services would also be offered to both the patients and their families.

'The services can help elderly people lead a better-quality life and reduce their chances of readmission. This can, in the long term, help reduce the overall medical cost to society,' Dr Leong said.

He said courses could be provided for secondary school leavers to train them as carers.

'I think the courses can attract the youngsters if there is a good career prospect. For example, the government can consider allowing carers to become nurses if they complete some top-up courses in the future.'

The lawmaker representing the welfare sector, Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, said the trial scheme was a good concept.

He said the Hospital Authority provided similar community care to the elderly, but the waiting time was very long. He hoped the new one-stop service would give priority to those who lived alone or lacked family support.

The former executive director of the Hong Kong Society for the Aged, Tik Chi-yuen, welcomed the trial scheme, saying it was meaningful.

'Many elderly people who are ailing cannot take care of themselves well. If we put them in hospitals, it can be a big burden on the public medical systems. The better way is to provide community support to them after they are discharged,' he said.

He urged the government to conduct a review after one year and study if more districts could benefit from the scheme.