Mumbai The Grant Medical College (GMC) and Sir JJ Group of Hospitals are all set to become the first public medical college and hospital to offer a post-graduate course in geriatric medicine.
With the growing population of senior citizens, health experts felt an urgent need for specialized doctors to deal with this age group as their representation of health problems is different from normal adults and often ignored.
“The percentage of the senior citizen population has been growing rapidly. We have been running a geriatric center. But it is necessary to have a PG course on geriatrics for the sustainability of this OPD. We have submitted the proposal to have four seats for geriatric medicine,” said Dr Pallavi Saple, dean of GMC and Sir JJ Group of Hospitals. She added that the pandemic too underlined the need for specialized doctors to treat this age group. “During the pandemic, we saw how senior citizens with co-morbidities like hypertension and diabetes had more issues,” added Saple.
Apart from geriatric medicine, the medical college has also submitted a proposal for PG seats in emergency medicine and immunohematology blood transfusion medicine. Each course will have four seats. GMC, which is celebrating 177 years and is the oldest medical college in the state, has 234 medical seats for post-graduation and 17 seats for super specialty.
As per the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the city is estimated to have 11.07 lakh people above the age of 60 years. According to the United Nations (UN), the share of the geriatric population in India is projected to increase to nearly 20% in 2050.
Vidya Shenoy, secretary gent, Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), said it is high time hospitals and medical institutions have more PG courses in geriatric medicine with increased dedicated manpower and infrastructure services both in OPD and inpatient facilities for geriatric care.
“At present, there is a steep imbalance in the ratio between specialized doctors and the senior citizen population. India has nearly 120 million vulnerable elderly population living with mental, physical, social and mental health issues. We have a handful of geriatricians and an acute shortage of psychologists to deal with the physical and mental well-being of senior citizens. There is a dire need to address their co-morbidities with higher outlay in the health budget by the state government and BMC as routine clinics cannot handle the burden of the geriatric population,” said Shenoy, also an integrative therapist and dementia care specialist.
Dr Anita Kumar, geriatrician, Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel said a geriatrician has to cater to the mental, physical and emotional needs of this population. “Hence, having PG courses will help get more trained healthcare manpower in treating the elderly in the long run. We do not have enough geriatricians currently in the country. There are very few institutes that provide a postgraduate course in geriatrics in our country,” she said.
Dr Kumar added that the physiology of the older population is different from that of young adults. “The way drugs get metabolized in the young is different from that in the old. That is the reason when we give medications to older people, the dose needs to be adjusted appropriately. Also, some of the common problems seen in the elderly are polypharmacy (use of multiple medicines), potentially inappropriate medications and various geriatric syndromes. All these factors need to be taken into account while examining an elderly individual,” she said.
In Mumbai, a few private hospitals such as Jaslok and Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospitals run geriatric clinics.
Dr NN Prem, chief consultant, elder care specialist and founder of the department of geriatric medicine at Jaslok Hospital said in a 60-plus adult, a doctor is not just treating the disease but also an aging body.
“Like children who have specific healthcare needs that are taken care of by paediatricians, older people too have specific needs and require a geriatrician to treat them in a holistic way. The disease affecting an aging body is different from a younger person with a robust body. At times, the presentation of diseases is different in geriatric population. For example, if somebody has pneumonia, fever, cough but in older altered behavior – talking gibberish and examining respiratory tract infection,” he explained. Dr Prem added that dementia and depression are the most common diseases seen in the geriatric population.
“As a geriatrician, our focus remains on ensuring they have a quality of life and life independently. It is both treatment and prevention We, therefore, pay attention to vision, hearing and teeth-independent,” he said.