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Government mulls comprehensive geriatric care unit for elderly in district hospitals

Kolkata: As the number of elderly people living alone is on the rise, the Bengal government is planning to set up a comprehensive geriatric care unit, an exclusive centre for elderly at the district hospitals, to understand their medical background and offer them customized care.
There are not enough doctors who are willing to visit these elderly patients at home. Sudharani Mondal (80) has been living at her South Kolkata residential apartment alone since her husband died more than a decade ago.
With her two sons settling abroad, there is only one attendant to look after her. She has become too feeble to visit a doctor's chamber in the locality.
The country has been facing a specific demographic challenge as the population over the age of 65 is expected to soar up to 20 percent by 2050. This requires both the state government and Centre to have a holistic approach towards the health needs of the elderly people.
The project will be carried out in various phases. The existing infrastructure of elderly care in some of the hospitals across the state will be given a complete overhaul in the near future. Specialised geriatric care centres would be set at the district level where proficient geriatricians and allied medical professionals will provide comprehensive geriatric assessment to address all-round needs of a patient and recommend the best treatment.
There are separate arrangements for the elderly citizens in Outpatients departments (OPDs) in all the state-run hospitals and medical colleges across the state.
The elderly often suffer from more than one medical problem. They need a special environment and attention that can help them improve their functional ability, physical health, cognition and mental health. The heath related issues of the senior citizens are often ignored. According to sources in the health department, there are plans to divide the geriatric care centers into four zones - Out Patient Care, In Patient Care, Emergency Care and Home Health Care and will offer comprehensive physical, cognitive and psychosocial assessment, a personal care plan, rehabilitation, safe use of medicines to the patients.
The project would be started in some districts on a pilot basis.
The main focus area at these centres would be towards preventing and managing fractures, dizziness, memory loss, depression, psychological revitalization, vaccinations, fatigue, unsteadiness or weakness, physiotherapy, diet counselling and medicine management.
As a part of geriatric health care, the patients would be informed about the preventive health care services such as regular physical exercise, balanced diet, vegetarianism, stress management, avoidance of smoking or tobacco products and prevention of fall.
The patients will also be imparted knowledge on health education. Regular monitoring and assessment of old persons will be carried out for any infirmity or illness at the geriatric clinics. To overcome the shortage of trained medical and para-medical professionals in geriatric medicine, in -service training will be imparted among health professionals.
Director of Health Service, Dr Ajay Chakraborty said: "To stress on the geriatric health care, we have already made some special arrangements for the elderly patients at the Out-patient departments and medicine wards of all the medical colleges and the district hospitals. The main purpose is to ensure that senior citizens get hassle free treatment."
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