Growing old gracefully, surrounded by family and friends, may be most people’s hope for the future. But for many their ‘golden years’ are going to be filled with concerns about how to cope.
Becoming frailer, less mobile and perhaps with additional health problems all make it more difficult for people to live independently.
Worrying new statistics show that the elderly population in Forth Valley is expected to double in the next 20 years, putting an additional burden on the already stretched NHS and local authority resources.
However, in a bid to tackle the issue head on and allow more elderly people to be cared for in their own homes, the Scottish Government has published a new bill.
Announcing the proposed legislation, Health Secretary Alex Neil said it was a vital component in easing the pressure on the country’s health and social care services.
The 2011 census shows for the first time ever, there are more people in Scotland aged over 65 than there are under 15.
Figures also reveal that in Scotland the proportion of people aged over 75 will rise by 80 per cent by 2035.
But Forth Valley projections show the increase is expected to be 97 per cent.
Put simply, the new bill will allow greater and improved partnership working between health boards and councils, including budgets to fund care for the elderly, particularly in their own homes.
Mr Neil said: “People in Scotland are living longer, healthier lives – which is good news. But it also means that services need to adapt in order to meet the challenges of a rapidly aging population.
“That means providing greater levels of care at home or in a homely setting and ensuring that our older people are not stuck in hospital longer than they need to be.”
He added the bill is a major step forward in public service reform, while integrating NHS and local authority budgets will help reduce delays in providing the correct and best care packages for individuals.
Kathy O’Neill, NHS Forth Valley’s general manager for community services, said partnership working was already established in the area.
She said: “There is already a lot of collaboration and the legislation is making it more formalised. By putting all the resources into a single pot, we can work more creatively and quicker.
“It’s all about establishing a pathway people can move through quickly and get the support they need. If there is too much bureaucracy and too many hoops for people to jump through, then it slows down the process of providing quality care.
“People don’t want to give the same information half a dozen times. By working together, we can improve things for everyone.”
However, she admitted that the new arrangements would not be without their challenges as services all had different structures and management, but the proposed legislation would provide an improved way of working for the future.
Kathy added: “It will be a big change for staff working in different organisations with different practices. We’re not trying to turn social workers into nurses or vice versa, but we are looking at how the services they offer can be best delivered.
“The new legislation will be focussed on what a person needs and how we can best support them to live in the community