A society is measured by how it cares for its elderly citizens. Despite the fact that a sizable population of elderly is growing in Jammu and Kashmir, the geriatric care still continues to be in infancy. To understand the basic principle of geriatric care and to highlight the medical and socio-economic problems that are being faced by the elderly people,Â Dr Zubair Saleem, Geriatric Consultant JLNM Hospital, Srinagar in an interview withÂ Rising Kashmirâ€™sÂ health correspondentÂ Mansoor Peer, talks about its importance.
Tell us about geriatric care. What is it all about?
Due to development in public health and medicine in the recent past, life span of humans has increased across the world resulting in an increase in elderly population and the specialty that deals with their treatment, care is named as Geriatric Medicine/Geriatrics.
How important is geriatricÂ care in a health care setting?
Getting old is natural. However, the process of ageing and course of illness is not similar. To make a difference between ageing and illness, the normal inevitable ageing process needs to be understood. And here comes the role of Geriatric Medicine. It not only provides awareness about the normal changes during ageing but also helps elderly in living better life by decelerating and delaying the ageing process by giving age specific treatment.
As such, a long life span is not as important as is the disease free and least dependent life. Keeping in view the decline in physiological functioning of various organ systems in elderly, the drug interactions and drug dosage has to be used carefully among them and Exclusive Geriatric Treatment Protocol (EGTP) takes care of it.
From diabetes, high blood pressure, urinary, thyroid, gastrointestinal, neurological to orthopedic diseases, the EGTP includes a holistic treatment approach for treating all medical diseases in elderly patients. Besides, it also includes health promotion, preventive services, diagnosis and management of geriatric medical problems.
What is the status of geriatric care in Kashmir hospitals?
Geriatrics is in the stage of infancy in India. However, the National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE) program has been introduced that aims at providing preventive, curative and rehabilitative services to the elderly persons at various levels of health care delivery system.
In Kashmir, we currently have Geriatric OPD at JLNM Hospital and SKIMS. Besides, we have an extension Geriatric OPD of department of Geriatric Medicine, JLNM Hospital at a daycare recreation center for senior citizens, Ahata Waqar situated in Chanapora. Recently Geriatric OPD was established at a Public Library at Bag-i-Mehtab.
We face shortage of geriatric careÂ specialists as the course isnâ€™t taught in Kashmir. Comment on it?
Geriatrics is comparatively a new branch of specialty in India and certainly would require some time to get established. Though at JLNM Hospital, we are teaching Geriatric Care as a chapter to the students undergoing bridge courses.
Do elderly need special wards in hospitals as the children need?
Yes, of course. Not just separate wards, but we need a dedicated hospital for elderly.
Our society values youth, and old age is looked upon with fear and negativity.Â How to avoid it?
When we discriminate elderly people on the basis of their age, it is called ageism. Caretakers of elderly, mostly their children, should try to be kind and give respect to their parents.
We cannot fight ageing, it is inevitable and normal. However, in order to prevent mental trauma to our elders (parents) we need to deal with them with patience, love, care and compassion, the same way they had dealt with us when we were children.
Do you recommend Jan Ashudi medicines?
I always recommend patients to buy their medicines from Jan Ashudi drug store at affordable prices. We have a record number of 3,854 elderly patients being treated at Ahata Waqar, a government daycare centre for senior citizens who exclusively buy their medicines from the drug store.
The efficacy of these medicines is at par with the medicines available in markets under popular brand names. These medicines are very cost effective and efficient as well.
Many elderly people have been infected with Covid-19. What are your suggestions for them?
We are seeing a rise in Covid 19 cases. Fear and anxiety about the virus can give them stress. They need to avoid watching news about Covid frequently.
They should follow all precautions like wearing a mask and restrict unnecessary movements. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
To ease their stress, it is recommended that they should perform meditation of any form at home. Take care of them. Tell them to take deep breaths, eat healthy, well-balanced meals, light in-home exercises, sleep well and avoid smoking and alcohol.
They should call people they trust about their concerns and how they are feeling. They should talk to their kith and kin on the phone.
What about Covid vaccination in elderly?
Currently the evidence based medicine says that every elderly should take Covid-19 vaccine. Many of my patients have received their shots and are keeping well.
Where and when can elderly patients come for treatment?
Currently, due to Covid-19 Geriatric Medicine OPD is suspended at JLNM Hospital and Ahata Waqar as well. However, if anyone needs any medical assistance, they can email me atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is your takeaway message?
After reading this interview, if one caretaker (son) treats his parents with kindness and if one elderly patient buys his/her medicines from Jan Ashudi and saves his/her money. I, you and everyone associated with getting this information published, should know that our work is done for today.