Introduction: We are the second largest nation in terms of Elderly population after China. The magnificence goes to improved medical facility and community healthcares services. How so ever, elderly are also well thought out to be the most vulnerable population against physical and mental illnesses and cognitive impairments. With the increase of the elderly population there is also a need to address the issues related to the vulnerabilities affecting them. “Vulnerability” tends to indicate the factors that can add on to the possibility of adverse outcomes both physically and psychologically. Due to this, they widely need to be assessed on physical ailments, past medical history and ongoing medication. There is also a need to assess them with basic cognitive examination aided with screening for various psychiatric disorders.
Researches studies have shown the ones with significant co morbidity and functional impairment are presumed to have lesser life expectancy as compared to the ones with good functional status i.e. independent in terms of activities of daily living (ADL’s) and without co morbidities i.e. diabetes mellitus, cancer, heart failure, oxygen dependent lung disease etc.
With this there is a high need for planning appropriate interventions and treatment plan for the accurate understanding of the potential risk factors during old age. Many of them despite being conscious about the fact of suffering from cognitive, psychiatric or physical problems would still not seek assistance.
Factors making the elderly prone to health risks and hazards: Research studies have cited the role of both internal and external factors that can lead to such risks and make them vulnerable. The internal risk factors would include increasing age, female gender, physiological co morbidities, substance abuse, mental illnesses, cognitive or sensory impairment or impairment in the activities of daily living (ADL’s) and malnutrition.
External risk factors on the other hand would include lack of social support from family and friends, staying alone, too much dependence on care givers, lack of finances, and unpleasant past life events.
Suggestive measures and Counseling for reducing vulnerabilities: Preventive health care measures become more complex as people age. Physiological decay and complications stand out to be as one of the most important reason for illnesses and ailments. However, the role of life style factors also cannot be denied. Physical inactivity, stress, malnutrition lack of social support etc also affect the ageing process.
A number of preventive therapies can be administered to help the elderly regain their physical and mental health. To name a few nutrition counseling which aims at eliminating Trans fatty acids form food to prevent against coronary heart disease. Instead, focus should be shifted towards healthy diets with rich fat like the Mediterranean diet, moderate alcohol consumption and non smoking. A higher level of physical activity is also an essential prerequisite for decrease in mortality. Similarly exercise counseling is the other form of preventive therapy that helps to prevent osteoporosis and obesity. The therapist would provide training for regular exercise weight reduction and weight maintenance program. The elderly are also taught about the benefits of physical activity. Tobacco and smoking cessation counseling is the other form of therapy that is provided to both the primary smokers and the ones exposed to second hand smoke which can make them prone for cardiovascular health risks.
Conclusion: Identifying the vulnerable elderly and assessing the health hazard is an essential process under social policies and issues. Additionally it also holds relevance to understand the causes and consequences of such cognitive and physical dysfunctions. Thus an attempt should be made towards understanding both the sources and consequences of vulnerability. The focus should be to ensure that all the elderly get an access to the counseling and guidance centers and can sustain and maintain healthy forms of life style.