A concept that can be universally favoured but feared at the same time is the idea of getting older, getting older means we have more freedom and ability to pursue what we weren’t able to do as children. But we also tend to forget that once we get to that desired point, we aren’t able to slow time down or stay in that stage forever and that’s where the fear of aging begins. As the aging population grows worldwide, the demand for elderly care services increases exponentially. With the most recent numbers of elderly people sitting at 3.6 million in 2021 for Malaysia alone, the increase in diseases and medical conditions associated with aging is expected to rise as well. World Health Organization (WHO) sets the prevalence for dementia rates to be 5% to 8% universally, Malaysia’s rates sit a little higher at 8.5% cementing the need for more informed elderly care. With that in mind, the most common institutions that provide said services are narrowed down to Old Age Homes and Nursing Homes.
Old Age Home
Known in different terms such as retirement home or assisted living, old age homes end up being homes of elderly individuals who enjoy their independence and the rest of their lives with minimal medical intervention. Granted medical conditions at that particular age is unavoidable, the focus of old age home is in the preservation of independent functions of the individual. Chores usually done by the individual at home such as laundry and housekeeping are maintained by staff providing caregiving and any medical staff available are only called in during emergencies. The concept of old age home is very similar to those of hotels and resorts around the world, the theme of home away from home still prevailing but the focus stays on the preservation the vitality through activities that promote health and independence.
Similarly, a nursing home enjoys the same liberties of an old age home with one main distinction. A nursing home houses residents that require medical care or round the clock care. Residents of nursing home’s tend to residents with debilitating, progressive or long term medical conditions not limited to dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke etc. Any post operation or rehabilitation services are also suitable for nursing home settings as they cater to individual needs. Anyone can chose to stay in a nursing home regardless of mobility and ability in terms of independence, but an elderly individual and their families would have better state of mind when medical attention can be given at any given time. Any social and stimulating activities done within the home are done so to accommodate to the needs and ability of the individual residents.
What is the difference?
It is arguably difficult to distinguish the two from each other especially in Malaysian soil. Both terms are used interchangeably and often create a sense of negativity when mentioned. With a third of the country holding Chinese roots and upholding the notion of filial piety, family members tend to seek any and all options before resorting to old age homes or nursing home as part of filial duty. However, there are key distinctions to both culturally and socially within Malaysian context that make it easy to differentiate. For example, taking into account of concept of filial duty, old age homes give an impression of being underfunded, sad, lonely and sometimes abusive. It is essentially a place for abandoned parents and individuals left to their own devices and condemned to spend the rest of their lives in lonesome and suffering. However, this is not the true nature of what an old age home entails. Sure, there might be some institutions that resemble that sad illusion mentioned earlier but there is a growing presence of quality geriatric service. Nowadays, old age homes look like a glorified geriatric version of a small university campus. Taking the American model of geriatric assisted living, it looks like a hotel with long term patrons and medical staff on hand when necessary. In Malaysia, we are barely scratching the same surface of our American counterparts but with the rising population of senior citizens we find ourselves adapting quickly to those models and adding a bit of cultural flair.
In nursing homes, we tend to think of them as the same with old age homes. However, the focus within nursing homes are on the management of the long term and debilitating medical conditions that the residents come in with. Old age homes have staff constantly nearby for supervision purposes and medical staff are only called upon when situation arises. In nursing homes settings, medicals staff are constantly on hand for any medical needs and regular staff are only there during working hours for management needs as well as basic caregiving needs. Both homes have emphasis on enriching and improving the lives of the residents but the nursing home are dealt with a harder hand as medical conditions only accumulate as the individual gets older. Physical and mental decline often becoming an obstacle to giving the best quality of life as some of the residents can be combative due to the inability to trust those outside of the family.
So which one should I choose?
The choice is essentially up to the individual and concerning parties. Different variables to consider when it comes to choosing between old age homes or nursing homes or even other avenues of care depends very much so on the needs and desires of the individual. Other options can include home nursing where the caregiver is hired to stay with your loved ones at home and cater to their needs. This would keep the individual more comfortable as they are within the confines of their own home or near to loved ones. When it comes to making a choice on how to care for your loved ones in their twilight years, it is always helpful to consider ourselves in their shoes and take into account their desires. Do research and give yourself time to come to an informed decision so that all parties can benefit.