Issue :   
November 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         November 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:November' 2018

GERIATRIC CARE

Better late than never !

K Datta

Anupriya Patel Too little too late. But, at last the prestigious All India Institute of Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, has reportedly arranged an ambulance equipped with a mobile laboratory for essential tests like diabetes, blood pressure, haemoglobin, kidney and liver function and seasonal fevers etc. The diagnostic facility is thoughtfully aimed to provide easy access to the elderly in need of such basic tests. Geriatric care is something the government has done little about, if anything at all, all these long years. Better late than never, as they say. We keep hearing day in day out that India is a country of the young. But we have failed to realize that its population of the elderly is also rapidly increasing. By 2050 India is likely to have 340 million, according to minister of state for health Anupriya Patel, who launched the government’s ambitious National Programme for Healthcare of the Elderly. The scheme aims to provide accessible, affordable and high-quality long-term, comprehensive and dedicated care for an ageing population. Community-based healthcare approach, including domiciliary visits by trained healthcare workers are part of the programme. Two dedicated national centres for the ageing are planned to come up, one each at the AIIMS in Delhi and Madras Medical College, Chennai. The National Centres of Ageing in time will become centres of excellence in the field of geriatric care.

Yuichiro Miura Geriatrics is a branch of medicine which has few takers, unlike pediatrics, gynaecology, internal medicine or surgery, to mention just a few other specialities which are much in demand. Training geriatric specialists takes time. There are hardly any. Then, we also need specialist nurses and social workers. The way out is to train all doctors and nurses in caring for the old. Courses should be introduced in all medical schools, nursing colleges and institutions to teach geriatrics. Such a scheme will take time to yield results. But it has to be done. Where there is a will there is a way. You can’t wish away the old.

Hardev Singh Flora Respect for the old is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation of Indians. It still exists. Approval of the old is essential in matters like matrimonial alliances and property. It is a mark of veneration. It is true also of many other countries of the East.

Atul Gavande But the old make news when one of them achieves a physical feat beyond years. Fauja Singh kept running marathons till he was a 100 years old. Then there is the inspiring example of the Japanese mountaineer Yuichiro Miura who set a record for being the oldest to climb Mount Everest at age 80. In fact, he climbed the world’s highest peak three times, recovering from a couple of surgeries for cardiac arrhythmia. Hopefully, he is planning to climb again when he is 90. Making a statement for women elders, Tamae Watanabe, also a Japanese, became, in 2012, the oldest female to climb the Everest when she was 70 years old.

Fauja Singh More recently, we read about our own Hardev Singh Flora. His claim to fame was winning a gold medal in the 80 metres hurdles event at the world masters athletic meet in the 85-88 age category at Malaga, Spain. To stress the point, he also won a silver medal and a bronze medal in 200m hurdles and triple jump.
But people like the Faujas and Floras, and Miuras and Watanabes are exceptions.
People of their advanced age are more worried about declining vision, impaired hearing, fading memories, arthritic knees and other suchlike disabilities requiring visits doctors who are trained keep their patients alive long as possible. As Dr. Atul Gavande, author, surgeon and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, says in his moving book Being Mortal, “it is not death the very old fear. It is what happens short of death – losing their hearing, their memory … and their way of life.
“With luck, … eating well, exercising, keeping our blood pressure under control, getting medical help when we need it … people can often live and manage a very long time.But eventually the losses accumulate to the point where life’s daily requirements become more than we can physically and mentally manage on our own…. We do not like to think about this eventuality.”
A start has been made by AIIMS Delhi. A lot more has to be done for the sake of the growing number of the ageing all over the country..