Embracing Social Gerontology

Drawing from readings and illustrative examples, discuss the issues and challenges relating to informal and formal caregiving…………………

Answer:

There are certain things in this world that can never be disputed. One such thing is the growth process. Be it in plants, animals, or any other living thing, growth is inevitable. With growth definitely comes wear and tear. Wear and tear is a terminology that has always been associated with machines: just because they having moving parts. However, a human being has got moving parts in their body: the joints of the human bones form the moving part; therefore they are subject to wear and tear. As a baby is newly born, so must it grow and age with time. When a baby is born, maximum care is accorded to it: just because it cannot afford to take good care of itself. The same is true for an old person. With ageing, comes weakness. Most of the things that a person used to do on their own become almost impossible to do. Human being has tried all ways possible to delay the ageing process: in fact human being likes the idea of being young and completely despises anything to do with the ageing process (Nancy 1). However much we try we have never succeeded in defeating old age. We can only learn how to prepare for old age and how to live with it once it knocks on our doors. This is where Social Gerontology becomes a fundamental part of the ageing process. Social Gerontology is the study of, social, psychological and biological aspects of ageing. It includes a number of issues amongst which include: investigating effects of an ageing population on society, investigating the ageing process itself (which in scientific terms is referred to as biogerontology), studying physical, mental, and social changes on persons as they age, investigating the interface of normal ageing and age related disease (geroscience) and lastly applying all this knowledge to policies and programs (both macroscopic and microscopic).
When it comes to caregiving, most people choose either formal or informal caregiving. While formal caregiving is one provided for by recognized institutions i.e. recognized nursing homes for formal caregiving, informal caregiving is provided by private individuals to the ageing: the informal caregivers can be relatives or volunteers for instance.  The caregiving process is a tricky process; it requires a person who is fully committed to the process. As mentioned earlier, caregiving is accorded to the ageing who finds it difficult to execute some of the tasks they normally used to do: that is why caregiving needs dedicated persons. Caregivers in their cause of duty encounter many challenges and issues. For instance, infringement of privacy is a major issue. The ageing just like babies, require round the clock attention, a caregiver would then feel that such a requirement makes them spend more time with the ageing than with their husbands or their families. Amongst the informal caregivers, disruption of family responsibilities; in some occasion work responsibilities become a major issue. A care giver may arrive late for work because they had to attend to an ageing person. This may lead to strenuous work relations. The cost of caregiving cannot be sidelined. The ageing may suffer from a disease that may render them immobile. It therefore means that alternative means of mobility has to be sought. Now, if we heap this financial burden to a family that can even afford a decent meal, it becomes a humongous task: in fact an impossible requirement. Absence of universal health insurance and very high medical cost in Singapore add to the woes of caregiving in Singapore. This is not to say that caregiving is an undertaking that should be abhorred. On the contrary it should be embraced. We cannot dismiss caregiving just because of some few setbacks that associated with it. Money, diamond, gold etc. have got far much worse setbacks, but do we hate them? Never! Caregiving is a wonderful experience that strengthens the family. It is really amazing how taking care of an ageing person can bring a warring family for example closer than expected. In addition someone fills proud when they say that they help in taking care of the elderly. It brings about social responsibility especially amongst the younger generation. It is like a given fact that if you help in taking care of someone elderly right now, then the same favor will be returned to you when your time comes.
In the recent years, Singapore has seen a big increase in the elderly. In fact we have witnessed an increase of the elderly over 65 years of age (Zhao Zheng 12). The Singapore government has got in place legislations and policies that deal with caregiving. We have enacted into law the Maintenance of Parents Act in 1994. Amongst its keys features was an endorsement to obligate (legal obligation) the children to take care of their parents once they age. (Art Lee 673) Although sad and unfortunate, some children refuse to take care of their ageing parents. This Act then becomes important to deal with such issues of neglect by the children. As is the norm with family cases, most are mediated: however, mediation may fail. The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports Houses the Tribunal of the Maintenance of Parents Act who’s amongst other jobs is to hear applications made to it after mediation have been attempted. We have also enacted the Mental Capacity Act which was passed in 2008 but came into force in March 2010. It aims in helping parents to be well prepared when planning for their disabled children. The Act mainly assists two type of people: as mentioned, it helps the parents plan for their disabled children and it also helps healthy individuals (mid-aged) who wish to plan (incase they are physically impaired) who to take care of them or ‘donees’ in legal terms. (Mental Capacity Act Chapter 177A) Singapore has got also the Advanced Medical Directive which helps majorly the terminally ill patients. The strongest point to me in so far as this policy is concerned is the issue surrounding euthanasia. The policy allows for brain dead or vegetative state patients to be relieved of medical life support. However, this is only possible if the patient had earlier on given such a directive. (Mental Capacity Act Chapter 177A)  Singapore has got also the Central Providence Fund.  This fund helps the individual once they start ageing and they need to be taken care of. Rather than burdening the family with the huge budgets associated with caregiving, the monies saved will cater for the expenses associated with ageing for the individuals who have saved for their old age financial support. Lastly we have the Medisave, Medishield, Medifund insurance scheme.  This insurance scheme is a compulsory insurance scheme of the working individual. This insurance scheme is tagged alongside the Central Providence Fund account of the working person. This fund has helped poor Singapore patients. Health care (good and effective health car that is) is a very expensive venture. What the Medisave, Medishield & Medifund insurance scheme has done is it has helped poor patients get treatment for such chronic illness like asthma, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. One feature of this insurance scheme is that it only covers chronic illness as opposed to common illness.
It is a known fact that, after Japan, Singapore has got the second fastest ageing population in the world (Gerald 77).  The rate or speed of ageing in Singapore is alarming. It calls for drastic measures to be employed if the laws enacted to protect the ageing are to bring the desired effect.  It is true that mere legislation to protect the elderly need to be backed up by other comprehensive legislation that will help implementation of the discussed legislation. For instance, we have to take personal initiatives to make sure that we have a vast bank of knowledge in so far as Social Gerontology is concerned. We should be able to beat the notion that parents should take care of their children, and embrace the fact that children will also one day have to take care of their ageing parents. This can only be achieved if we (the younger generation that is) arms ourselves with the necessary information needed to help the ageing in society. One major problem is that geriatrics has not been traditionally offered in the universities. The learning institutions have to take a leading role in making sure that adequate professionals in geriatrics are produced to help in taking care of the ageing. In addition to the general population trying to understand and trying to learn more about the issue, professional care is inevitable. The more complex problems can be well attended to by a professional. Some of the legislations also need review. I am taking about allowing housewives, daily waged &hourly waged workers to be able to save for their old age financial support through the Central Providence fund. At the moment the fund has got limitations: for instance, it is not universal, and that has locked out the above mentioned persons. Taking care of the elderly should be encouraged and careers around geriatrics should be encouraged.
a person may justify Social Gerontology in Legal or whatever ways. But I think we need to carry out this changes purely not for economic, population or even legal reasons; I think we need to do it purely because if ethical reasons. Sure, the economical and legal aspects are important but it is the ethical part that I think matters. Without the elderly the present generation would be nowhere. All that we boast to own would not have been accrued. Earlier in the introduction we saw that growth is a natural process: a child is born, but so must it age one day. It is a circular motion and we all end up benefiting from each others kindness. So why not help each other after all?

Works Cited

Art Lee, Singapore’s Maintenance of Parental Act: A lesson to be learnt from the United States. Loy. L.A. Int’l &Comp. L. Rev 671. 1995.

Dr Gerald CH Koh, Caring for an Ageing Population: A Call for More Geriatric Training among Family Physicians. The Singapore Family Physician Oct – Dec 2002: Vol. 28 (4)

MS Zhao Zheng, Caregiving in Singapore. Statistics Singapore Newsletter, September 2011.

Mental Act Chapter 177A 2008.

Nancy, R.H., Asuman H. Kiyak. Social Gerontology: A multidisciplinary Perspective. Pearson, 2011.
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