"ASSESSING THE EFFECTS OF URBANIZATION AND WESTERNIZATION ON THE"
ASSESSING THE EFFECTS OF URBANIZATION AND WESTERNIZATION ON THE NEED FOR NURSING CARE AMONG THE ELDERLY IN CHIANG MAI, THAILAND. Chika Okoronkwo, Biology, Senior, Wheaton College Dr. Kristen Page, Wheaton College Biology Investigative Research/Off-campus Experience As human populations increase worldwide, there is a subsequent increase in the rate of population ageing, especially in the developing world. Thailand is no exception, and by 2020 the proportion of the elderly population in Thailand is predicted to rise from about 7% (in 1990) to 15%, (Jitapunkul et al. 1999, 2001). As Thailand continues to advance technologically and socio-economically, birth and death rates are expected to decline, increasing life expectancy and therefore reinforcing the incidence of age-related diseases in society. Traditionally in Thai society, the family was responsible for taking care of their elderly relatives. However, as urbanization, globalization and consequent Westernization of the society occurs, there is a shift away from the traditional close-knit, localized, large family. This results in increased strains on families to provide care for their elderly. In addition, because of increased life expectancy, diseases, injuries and general health problems associated only with the aged and more typical in Western settings are more prevalent. Consequently, it is possible that because of inability to cope with the increased demands on time and attention, many Thai families are now compelled to opt for the more Western approach. This research project was designed to identify family conditions that result in placement of elderly in nursing facilities. Specifically I developed a model that would predict the fate of elderly care as a function of family size and lifestyle, and degree of medical needs. Surveys were administered in both rural and urban settings on a total of 105 people aged 55+ living in nursing care institutions, hospitals and at home. In preliminary studies it was found that, compared to the average number of 5 children/ family in rural settings, 53% of the elderly that lived in more urban settings had no children, making them more in need of outside care. The agricultural sector is the most common profession in Thailand, a factor that keeps the family close- knit. However, 0% of the children of the elderly that were living in urban settings, continued on with their parents profession of farming, compared to 80% of the children of the elderly in rural areas. The most common current medical reason for the elderly to be admitted to McKean Rehabilitation Hospital was a physical injury or accident (19.05%) followed by paralysis (18%). Of the common diseases that they carried, which were not as prevalent in the past, hypertension (19%) was the most prevalent, followed by heart disease (14.3%) and then diabetes (11.9%). These findings and subsequent analysis of the data obtained suggest that small family size, a change in lifestyle of offspring and the increased prevalence of time-taxing medical problems would increase the need for nursing care, consequently requiring medical institutions to look into accommodating for this change.