The future looks brighter for nursing homes in the Philippines, due to the growing population of the country which is in its twilight years. But the family culture of Filipinos somewhat prevents them from reaching their full potential, according to a German expert in geriatric care. Despite this, Marc Daubenbuechel, executive director of the Retirement and Healthcare Coalition, remains optimistic.
It is estimated that there are 7 million elderly people in the Philippines. In this population, about 90% do not receive enough care. In 2020, these figures have doubled, from 8% to 16%.
In an interview with Business Mirror, Daubenbuechel said care homes are promising businesses that can help care for the elderly while generating income. But the country’s family culture is still a significant obstacle.
So where does elder care in the Philippines go from here?
Elder care in the Philippines
As the elderly population continues to grow, discussions about how to properly care for them are springing up. Although the norm for elderly care here is that they continue to stay with their families, many elderly people are not the most privileged. Some even have the misfortune of not having a home.
Fortunately, more and more seniors are considering going to nursing homes in the Philippines. Such an expectation opens up many opportunities for players in the geriatric care sector, which Daubenbuechel says is now served by 20 to 25 private nursing homes, with a combined capacity of between 300 beds and 500 beds, as well as numerous d Church-run and nun-run home care facilities and government-owned facilities under the Ministry of Social Welfare and Development, such as the Golden Acres, to name a few.
“In five years, I think you’re looking at 3,000 to 4,000 beds,” he said of industry estimates. “But it also depends on the regulations in place and the hospitals if they are willing to cooperate. Once the hospitals realize that there is a lot of money in it, they will definitely jump into it.
As more and more people turn to nursing homes to care for elderly loved ones, Filipinos’ tradition of close family ties has prevented some from doing so.
This is due to the misperception that it defies the norm of a typical household setup in the country, in which parents, grandparents and even elderly close relatives typically live with their children, single or married, mostly for financial support and guardianship. .
“Basically, people [are] always saying [that] retirement homes are not in the character of Filipinos. I agree. But do you also plan to live in a small, Filipino-style shoebox-style condominium? It’s not. How do you live with your wife [or] husband and two children in a two-bedroom apartment [condo], then take care of your parents. It doesn’t work anymore,” said Daubenbuechel, who is also the general manager of RainTree Care Services and Senior Residences.
He said the prevalence of dementia among the aging population is also alarming. A geriatric care facility can help relieve the family of the burden of caring for themselves.
Institutions specializing in geriatric care are also multiplying. For example, there is an old people’s home in Laguna and facilities in Metro Manila aimed at caring for the elderly. Unfortunately, there are not enough facilities nationwide to provide proper care for those in their twilight years.
Caring for Homeless Elderly in the Philippines
Tucked away behind one of the largest malls in the country is a humble haven, Golden Reception and Action Center for the Elderly and Other Special Cases (GRACES), which serves as a temporary home for the abandoned, neglected, lost and unattached. Here they find a home among people who have suffered a similar fate.
But not all older people who find themselves homeless can seek refuge in institutions similar to GRACES. There are only a handful of homes for the aged in the whole country, and only four of them are run by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). However, the growing number of abandoned elderly has led to overcrowding in some facilities.
“In the Philippines, there are really only a few institutions for the elderly – and there are only a few NGO niches [non-governmental organizations] and private establishments, around 30 to 40 slots. Unlike the government [elderly institutions]like GRACES or Golden Acres, which can accommodate more than 100 people,” said Daisy Caber, a social worker with GRACES.
The pressing need caused by the rising cases of abandonment and neglect as well as the cost of nursing homes in the Philippines is identified as one of the reasons for the filing of Bill 4946, titled Homes for Abandoned Seniors Act of 2014 , by Representative Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela City.
The bill recognizes the various reasons that lead to elder neglect, such as the economic reality of spending on an elderly person’s care, family issues, and the inability to care for the elderly.
The bill, inspired by Valenzuela’s own Bahay Kalinga, aims to create a retirement home for the elderly in every city and municipality. The retirement home will be managed by the DSWD, in coordination with the relevant Local Government Unit (LGU).
Bahay Kalinga is home to 25 homeless or abandoned elderly people. It also provides health care for clients, while the local government assists them in tracing their relatives.
Nursing homes, as identified in the bill, will be mandated to meet the following needs of seniors: comfortable housing; adequate food and clothing; medical consultation or treatment; Health care; professional opportunities; recreational and social interaction; tips; case conference; family dialogue; outreach to existing family for reintegration; literacy; productivity development; and religious; cultural and professional activities.
Do we really need nursing homes in the Philippines?
Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long-term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember, significant enough to affect a person’s day-to-day functioning. Currently, it affects 170,000 seniors nationwide. The number is expected to increase to between 230,000 and 250,000 over the next five years, according to data from the Dementia Society of the Philippines.
“Living with someone with dementia is very, very exhausting for the whole family. This can become dangerous for children and for the elderly themselves. So it has to be handled professionally,” Daubenbuechel said.
Because the services and facilities offered by care homes “are not cheap”, the executive also cited this as a factor driving the local market away from these institutions. “But why is it acceptable to send your [aging] mom and dad in expensive tertiary hospitals and stay there for at least a year, where you pay 180,000 or 120,000 pesos a month? It’s socially acceptable, but not when they’re staying in a nursing home that caters particularly to the needs of the elderly,” he said.
For this to become a huge industry, Daubenbuechel called on geriatric care providers to correct misconceptions about nursing homes.
“What happens in developed countries,” he said, “is that older people are usually taken to hospital for acute care for a maximum of two weeks and then they are transferred to a nursing home for long-term care“.
Dementia is just one of the many conditions that our seniors face. There are also heart issues, dietary restrictions, and even emotional distress that non-professionals may find difficult to deal with. With the idea that nursing homes in the Philippines are filled with staff and facilities capable of dealing with and responding appropriately to such conditions, sending our older relatives to such institutions shouldn’t seem like such an inconvenience.
Aging with care
Finding the right care is essential, especially for the elderly. As they are in their final years, it is essential to ensure that they live in comfort and health. Of course, staying with their family can always bring them joy and care, but there are times when the proper responses may not be forthcoming.
Nursing homes for the elderly in the Philippines provide a safe and secure environment for the elderly. From well-trained nurses to amenities for their well-being, these homes ensure that loved ones in their twilight years get the comfort they deserve.