With Hong Kong’s population aging at an accelerated pace due to longer average lifespans and low fertility rate of its residents, there is an urgent need to address the rising associated healthcare challenges while continuing to deliver quality care for the elderly. Chronic health diseases common among older adults in Hong Kong, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, and those related to cognitive impairment, currently either do not have a cure, or can result in debilitating illness from which those affected may not fully recover. The goal for elderly healthcare is therefore to focus on rehabilitation upon the onset of chronic illness, and management of health and wellbeing rather than remedial treatment. Such services are delivered with aims to avoid premature physical and cognitive deterioration while ensuring high quality of life and independence for those affected. In order to achieve said goal, local and international health and social care experts have strongly recommended the aging in place principle, defined as the ability for older adults to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably.
The main form of elderly care service in Hong Kong remains to be institutionalized residential care services, against high costs to the healthcare system and the user, as well as an aging staple of care workers with minimal interests from potential younger replacements. While the public health and social care systems are currently making plans to shift their model on elderly service from one predominantly reliant on residential care to a focus on community care, there have been discussions recently on the possibility of engaging more nurses in the community to ease the stress on the over-stretched public healthcare system in Hong Kong.
Community CareAge Foundation (“CCAF”) has sought to contribute towards bucking that trend since 2009 through establishing a unique community healthcare model consisting of nurse-led clinic stations housed within community and elderly centers of other like-minded non-governmental organizations. These clinics, mainly aiming to serve those above 60 years of age, provide a variety of primary preventive care services and health promotion activities for elderly residents of public housing estates free of charge. The service is offered so that older adults can receive proper healthcare from registered nurses in between scheduled follow-ups at specialist out-patient clinics and to avoid or delay the need for residential care support as long as possible. In addition to clinical services, each clinic station also includes a social worker who is tasked with providing training sessions to caregivers, including family members and domestic helpers, to deliver proper home care, as well as coordinating community level recruitment and training of volunteers, who in turn will help carry out home visits and service support to elderly in need. Working towards a friendly community for the practice of aging in place to be adopted, these training are essential to maximize the quality time older adults can stay home among family and friends.
Since its inception, CCAF has established its nurse-led clinic stations at various public housing estates in Kwun Tong, Kowloon City, Sham Shui Po, and Wan Chai Districts, serving thousands of beneficiaries annually in the process. With support from the Foundation, CCAF will continue to carry out its meaningful work to safeguard the health of its elderly members, and provide them with the comfort, respect, and independence they deserve.