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Lack of facilities affects senior citizens

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By Abraham Adekunle

Elderly health crisis: shortage of specialists and rising costs in Nigeria.

Nigeria still battles the critical issue of poor access to health services and the shortage of trained geriatric specialists in Nigeria, particularly its impact on the elderly population. The plight of individuals like Pa Patrick Nwokeoha and Ignatius Onyebuchi sheds light on the challenges faced by seniors in obtaining adequate healthcare. Pa Patrick Nwokeoha, a 79-year-old battling prostate Cancer and glaucoma, faced significant obstacles in accessing medical care. His son, Caleb, recounted the family’s struggle, revealing that the symptoms of prostate cancer were overlooked for nearly two decades.

The shortage of urologists at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital exacerbated the situation, causing a delay in Patrick’s treatment. Financial constraints further burdened the family, underscoring the economic challenges of caring for elderly relatives in the country. Similarly, Ignatius Onyebuchi’s family grappled with a prostate-related ailment. Despite initially seeking treatment from a native doctor, they eventually turned to a Catholic hospital, spending over a million Naira on his care. The story highlights the desperation some families face in navigating traditional and modern healthcare options.

Rising costs of medicines affect the elderly.

Further, the importance of geriatrics, a medical specialty focused on elderly care, must be emphasized as older adults face an increased risk of chronic diseases. The United Nations  and World Health Organization’s perspectives on older adults align with the challenges presented, emphasizing the need for targeted initiatives. Loneliness among the elderly is identified as a contributor to ill health, with personal accounts from retirees in Magboro and Lagos underscoring the significance of familial support in maintaining the well-being of seniors.

Also, the rising cost of medicines in Nigeria is a pervasive issue affecting elderly citizens, as described by retirees like Mrs. Juliana Sotimirin. The departure of pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis further compounds the problem, leading to scarcity and increased prices of essential medications. The lack of specialized geriatric care, especially in rural areas, is highlighted by a Lagos-based Social Media entrepreneur, Babatunde Liyasu, who recounts his mother’s struggle with Dementia. He advocates for improved medical facilities and free medical treatment for elderly citizens in rural areas.

There is prevalence of chronic diseases among senior citizens.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)’s demographic insights, older persons constitute about 4.78% of the total population, with projections indicating a significant increase by 2030. Challenges such as irregular Pension payments, poverty, and Unemployment among the elderly’s children exacerbate their difficulties in accessing quality healthcare. Attention is also drawn to the prevalence of chronic diseases among senior citizens, including hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and dementia. Dr. Ogugua Osi-Ogbu, a consultant physician and geriatrician, emphasizes the need for comprehensive healthcare practices from a younger age to ensure better outcomes in Old Age.

However, the insufficient attention given to geriatrics and the shortage of geriatric specialists in Nigeria is highlighted. The scarcity of training programs and the closure of geriatric centers due to a lack of specialists are identified as key issues by medical practitioners like Kenneth Maduka. Dr. Abiola Obadare, a consultant family physician, underscores the challenges in geriatric care and calls for the introduction of geriatric courses at universities to address the shortage of trained personnel.

Related Article:  Health sector faces personnel shortage – NMA 

Perspectives from pharmacists, Mrs. Elizabeth Oladimeji and Mr. Wisdom Iferobia, who advocate for subsidizing Medicine prices for the elderly are also featured. They stress the impact of brain drain, inflation, and the departure of multinational pharmaceutical companies on geriatric healthcare. Finally, the report concludes with insights from government officials and international agencies, including the Special Adviser to the President on Health, Salma Ibrahim-Anas, and the World Health Organization representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo. Plans to include elderly persons in universal health coverage, partnerships with international agencies, and efforts to mainstream geriatric care into primary care are highlighted as potential solutions.


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