It is a sad fact, but Mumbai’s elderly have fewer hospitals to go to for expert medication. Sir JJ Hospital in Byculla is the only state-run hospital that has been running a geriatric centre, which opened three years ago. Hospital dean Dr TP Lahane said a geriatric ward was under construction at the premises, with 30 beds, and is likely to open soon.
The operational centre was set up under the Centre’s ‘National Health Care Programme for Elderly’ scheme and with a sanction of Rs2.13 crore. Dr Lahane said, “Most patients come with problems such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, gastrointestinal diseases, poor absorption of nutrients and diabetes. The 26-member staff comprises physicians, physiotherapist, acupressurist and yoga teacher.”
Dr Lahane said it was unfortunate that many families dump their elders at the centre and leave. “Every week, there is at least one patient like that. We treat him or her and then them hand over either to the police, NGOs or old-age homes,” he said.
Geriatric OPDs (out-patient departments) are also operational at civic-run KEM and Nair hospitals. Dr Alka Subramaniam, assistant professor, department of psychiatry at Nair hospital in Mumbai Central, said such geriatrics patients are attended to every Thursday from 11am to 2pm. “Depression is very prevalent among seniors. We have observed that unplanned retirement, too, gives rise to problems in elders,” she said, adding they rely on lifestyle modification for a lot for treatments.
Geriatric centres are not popular among private hospitals. Dr Gaurang Desai, consulting physician at Hiranandani Hospital and member of its geriatric clinic called Agewell, said he did not know of any other private hospital offering such a clinic in Mumbai. “In India, geriatric care is yet to evolve as a discipline, though the need will rise, given the statistics related to aging,” he said, adding constraints such as a detailed and time-consuming diagnosis prevented many doctors from entering the field. “A story of 80 years can’t be told in eight minutes. Talking to the elderly and identifying their problems takes time, so the doctors end up seeing less patients than they would do as general physicians,” he said, sharing Agewell runs a joint clinic with a physician, psychologist and a physiologist together attending to an elderly patient.