Geriatric Care in India and Challenges on the Way Forward

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By Swetha Sukumar

Posted on December 15, 2023


4 min read

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Geriatric Care in India

Ageing is something that can never be defined. Every period of a man’s life is as important as his childhood. As per our Indian culture we give special consideration and care to parents and the elderly. And they see it as their children’s duty to care for their aged parents. But in this changing era, India is becoming a nursing home for the elderly as their children migrate abroad in search of better living conditions and job opportunities.  

Geriatric Care in India

Geriatrics is a relatively new field in India. India now has a large community of practising physicians who understand the problems of ageing and provide treatments and care for the elderly. Elderly people in India, their caregivers and healthcare providers recognize ill health as part of ageing. The main issue in geriatric care is not only to identify the health problems and diseases that affect a person in old age and provide the necessary medicines but also to provide support considering his physical and mental health.

The patient and caregivers should be well aware of the appropriate dosage regimen, including the necessary details about the side effects of the medications the patient is taking or the medications the doctor prescribes for the patient, including prevention, recognition, management, and measures to be taken if they develop.

Challenges of Geriatric Care in India

Taking care of the patient is not an easy task. It requires special training and study. Because the patient and caregivers should be well aware of the appropriate dosage regimen along with the prevention, recognition, management and measures to be taken if they develop, including the necessary details about the side effects of the medications the patient is taking or the medications the doctor prescribes for the patient.

Geriatric pharmacotherapy needs to be included as a component of undergraduate and postgraduate education in medicine and other disciplines like nursing and pharmacy. To minimise adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and to ensure that older patients understand pharmacotherapy based on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, appropriate training is essential.

Healthcare services should be based on the needs of the elderly. This should include a comprehensive baseline medical condition survey and functional assessment in health areas deemed important to them. The current population of India as of 20 March 2023 is 1,416,148,323 based on interpolation of the latest United Nations data. 149 million people are aged 60 and over. This is 10.5% of the country’s population. As 71% of these elderly people live in rural areas, it is imperative to make geriatric health services part of primary health care services. It calls for special training of medical officers in geriatric medicine. Factors such as lack of transportation facilities and dependence on someone to accompany the elderly to the health care facility hinder them from accessing available health services. Hence training of peripheral health workers and community health volunteers is essential.

The National Programme for the Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE), which was introduced by the Indian government in 2011, is the most recent national policy effort. This program aims to create a more enabling environment for a society that encourages active and healthy ageing for all age groups, while also providing the elderly with long-term, dedicated services that are accessible, affordable, and of high quality.

Future Possibilities of Geriatric Care

By extending education in geriatric medicine to Ayurveda, Yoga, naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (Ayush) professionals, Varan can expand the job prospects in this field into the future. And also, by implementing the various services offered to the elderly by the Government of India at the ground level.

Strengthening pension schemes for the elderly and setting up a scheme as an incentive for their caregivers will create the necessary impetus to improve the condition of the Indian elderly, in addition to the health benefits.

Geriatric care has two distinct aspects—one, promotion of health and longevity, and second, management of diseases that occur especially in old age to maintain a comfortable and healthy ageing. For that, people must come into the work of caring for the elderly. And a geriatric consultant is essential in every hospital in between. Grow the sector by giving priority to aged care and increasing employment opportunities in the sector.