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Life expectancy has increased significantly in the last few decades. The trend is likely to persist in the coming years and life expectancy may well surpass 80 years in most countries of the world, including India. Currently, more than 10% of Kerala’s population is over the age of 65 years. At a 3.5% annual increase, this is the fastest growing segment of the state’s population.
Our society is rapidly undergoing change. Families are becoming nuclear. The vast majority of the young are moving away in search of jobs and careers. These include women who were traditional caregivers to the elderly. We are now facing a situation where the elderly are increasing in numbers and living longer while the number of care givers is rapidly decreasing.
The health needs of the elderly differ from the younger population. They need comprehensive care that, besides routine medical care tailored to the elderly metabolism, also must include social, psychological and functional interventions to improve their quality of life.
Geriatric care has to be necessarily holistic in approach involving multidisciplinary inputs. Diseases often manifest differently in the elderly and the approach to treatment differs considerably from the treatment in the young. There should also be a considerable emphasis on the preventive aspects. While the need of the hour is to keep the elderly healthy at home, today we see a trend of placing the disabled and frail elderly in so called “old age homes”.
To meet this acute need of comprehensive geriatric care, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre hosts a separate Geriatric Department with a team of healthcare personnel trained in Geriatric care - Geriatricians, Gerontological Nurses, Medical Social Workers, Gerontological Physiotherapists, Nutritionists, etc. Where necessary, specialists from various other departments in the hospital also participate in the medical and rehabilitative care of the patients.
This department is one of the first of its kind in the country and the first in Kerala. During a patient consultation, the various team members interact with the patient and his/her caregivers and advise them on various aspect of eldercare. While investigating, diagnosing and treating specific diseases, the focus is always on the preservation of function and improving the quality of life. This means that the Geriatrician addresses the patient's psychological, social and environmental issues as well as his/her medical problems and also frequently works with the family or caregivers who are assisting the older person.
In today’s high tech environment, another area of concern is medical decision making in elderly patients. What is appropriate and what is not? End of life issues are a major worry for the patient and relatives. The Geriatric team helps the patient and relatives make the right decision by educating them on the various options and consequences while taking into account patient autonomy (respecting the patient’s wishes).
This program includes screening test for the functions of all major organs of the body.