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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 31 October, 2014

Concern for elderly health over budget cuts

Older people are more likely to spend more nights in hospital and to visit the GP, a TILDA study found.

A CO-AUTHOR OF a new report has expressed concern that the areas most under pressure from the ageing in Ireland are the ones most likely to have their budgets cut.

The publication from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), on the use of health services by older people in Ireland, concluded that social care services are likely to face rapidly growing pressures with ageing.

It found that elderly people who live alone are more likely to visit the GP, and are also likely to spend more nights in hospital.

Ageing Ireland

The report, written by authors, Aoife McNamara, Professor Charles Normand and Professor Brendan Whelan, was launched today.

Prof Charles Normand said that to a significant extent, this report is encouraging, “as it shows that in many instances services are focused on those most likely to need them, eg visits from public health nurses and home help are focused on those over 80 years”.

However, he cautioned that “there are some disturbing messages”.

Recent budget cuts have tended to fall heavily on precisely the services that are likely to be most under pressure, especially those that support people to remain at home or to leave hospital when their treatment is complete.  At times or rapid retrenchment there is a tendency to cut where you can and not where you should.

He also said: “It is also disturbing to see the extent to which those without medical cards are not using important services”.

People without medical cards were found to be low users of community services, which the authors said suggests that practical as well as financial barriers reduce use of services such as chiropody and physiotherapy.

The report showed that age is not a significant driver of health service use, with factors related to age (such as declining health or higher levels of entitlement) being more important.

But in contrast to hospital and GP care, the report found that community and social care services were likely to face rapidly growing pressures with ageing.

It also found that married people have longer hospital stays than single people, and that some service use decreases with age, such as dental care.

The full report can be accessed via this link.

Read: Age Action urges public to remember elderly during cold snap>

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