Prevention is a cornerstone of any healthcare framework. While its goal is fairly straightforward–to avoid the onset, development or worsening of disease or disability–preventive care involves many complex medical and societal issues requiring local, available and effective solutions. Here is an overview of practices and resources that, when integrated into our daily lives, enable us to improve care for ourselves and for our loved ones, to preserve autonomy throughout our lives.
For healthy, independent people, prevention focuses on reducing the risk that chronic and/or progressive disorders will develop. The chief goal here is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and use the right resources, ideally as early as childhood and adolescence.
The habits making up a "healthy lifestyle" have become relatively obvious to the general public, particularly where diet, physical activity, sleep and smoking are concerned. However, prevention also involves safety from e.g. injury for oneself and others: this means both using the right resources, like protective equipment (seat belts in cars, helmets on bicycles, etc.), and developing the right habits, such as learning first aid or child-proofing one’s living space. Finally, prevention also includes medical procedures e.g. vaccination, or screening for disorders like high blood pressure.
For people with mild disorders and/or low loss of autonomy, prevention has two main goals: avoiding or slowing down functional decline and heading off any physical deterioration that would further reduce autonomy.
“Loss of autonomy” itself should be understood as a spectrum: it ranges from minor loss due to an accident or a chronic illness, to major loss in the case of isolated people, who require daily assistance (temporarily or permanently) and/or suffer from cognitive disorders.
These distinctions matter as, given rapid population ageing, loss of autonomy in different forms will become increasingly common. Preventing these situations will be a factor to achieve increases in life expectancy free of disability.
As people age, new preventive habits become necessary, especially with regard to alcohol. and, Similarly, it is never too late to stop smoking, as the benefits from doing so accrue very rapidly.
Tailor-made prevention for elderly and frail persons
For frail persons and/or those whose autonomy is greatly reduced, preventive care aims, above all, to forestall accidents and complications that could provoke a further loss of autonomy or death.
For these persons, many preventive actions are available regardless of age. Physical activity, if necessary accompanied by a specialist, remains important throughout one’s life to strengthen muscles and maintain balance.
Falls are especially significant risk factors, and must be a priority for prevention especially concerning people’s living environment, whether they are in home care or a specialised facility. In France, the CICATs (centres for information and advice on technical aids) are also a valuable resource for discovering numerous tools likely to improve the daily lives of frail persons.
Inclusive housing, specially designed for elderly and/or frail persons, is a promising solution to meet the dual demand for home care and a secured environment. While it remains very limited to date as an option–in France, only 6% of housing is considered inclusive or suitable for the elderly–it is a major priority for Korian.
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