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Senior Citizen And Helath Care 
(BY Raghavendra.K.Padasalgi)


When I was in my teens I was  curious to know many things for which I was not allowed by the elders of my family. I  eagerly awaited attaining adulthood .Now I have become old  and if anyone calls me as an old man I some how get offended and I wish I were still in my old teens. However if some one say I belong to senior citizen I feel some what  honoured and happy. I have analysed the life style of senior citizen in detail  , the problems faced by them due to various reasons and how they are able to face/ overcome are in brief summarised  hereunder.

Senior citizen as per Income Tax Act An individual whether male or female who has arrived at the age of 65 in any day of the previous year will be called as a senior citizen for Income Tax purposes.For other purposes viz for getting  concession on Rail travel/interest on Bank deposits it is 60 years.

Many pan-India surveys reveal that almost 30% of India’s elderly persons are subject to some form of abuse or neglect by their families. Ironically, in spite of this, only one in six of the abused elderly report the injustice. Shockingly, 47.3% of abuse against elders is committed by adult caregivers, partners or family members, while 48.7% of all abuse cases imply neglect of an elderly person, abandonment, physical, financial or emotional abuse. Nine out of 10 calls received by Mumbai’s Dignity Foundation pertain to property-related abuse. HelpAge’s Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai help lines report a similar trend.   

Social scientists attribute many reasons to this upward spiral in injustice against senior citizens. “Such cases reflect a rapidly altering social landscape where family bonds are weakening and elders are being marginalised,” says sociologist Dr Aruna Khatri. Another reason for this social menace, Khatri points out, is that a growing number of middle class children are moving out of their parental homes to live independently or go overseas to seek better work opportunities. “Changing family dynamics have left many elderly people feeling lonely and more vulnerable to crime,” says Khatri.

According to Shalini Dewan, Director, United Nations Information Centre, New Delhi, the problem of elder abuse is largely under-recognised although the UN considers it critical. Member countries of the United Nations adopted an International Plan of Action in Madrid in April 2002 to recognise the importance of elder abuse and put it in its framework of universal human rights.

According to a recent all-India INPEA survey, the problems of the elderly can be broadly categorised as economic, health, disability, and social. In Delhi, the survey revealed that the most prevalent health problems among the elderly related to mental handicap, orthopedic and ophthalmic problems. Loneliness, no source of income, and unemployment were also found to be widespread among Delhi’s elderly. However, in Kolkata, lack of adjustment, no source of income, non-fulfillment of basic needs, alcoholism/drug addiction and chronic illness were the major problems.

Apart from the social and health problems, what also troubles the elderly -- especially in cosmopolitan areas -- is lack of safety and security. For instance, gruesome crimes have been committed against senior citizens living in Delhi, in the last few years. Overall, 500 murders of senior citizens were committed in Delhi in 2005, 511 in 2004, and 547 in 2002. So far this year, according to police records, the city and the national capital region (NCR) have already witnessed 18 murders of elderly couples. In addition, out of the 18 murders last year, 11 took place in south Delhi which is inhabited mostly by the upper middle class and rich. The motive was mainly robbery, as the police claim the city’s elderly are soft targets. The Delhi police have set up a special cell to deal with the security of senior citizens, which coordinates and monitors campaigns for their safety. An advisory has been issued for senior citizens to submit the names and details of their servants to the nearest police station. Neighborhood watch schemes, patrolling by policemen, and wireless alarm systems are other measures already in place. 

Dr Aabha Chowdhury, Founder Secretary, Anugraha, a Delhi-based NGO that works for the welfare of the elderly, thinks many problems of the elderly could be solved by whittling down dependence on the government and family members. “The elderly should look at creating their own community network to rely on in times of need, by taking their welfare matters into their own hands,” she asserts.

Apart from NGO interventions, the National Institute for Social Defence, an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, has also identified the special needs of the elderly and designed targeted interventions. It has launched Project NICE, an initiative on care for the elderly, which provides technical training and teaches care of the elderly through three-month and six-month courses, free of charge.

According to Rafiq ur Rehman, Project Director, NICE, the response has been overwhelming. “We’ve started a one-year post-graduate diploma course to enhance skills and knowledge in geriatric care. Now, geriatric care can be taken up as a career. The two short-term courses are customised for individuals or NGOs who want to learn how to take care of elderly patients at home.” Project NICE also engenders valuable data on the social and economic status of older persons. Its last survey showed loneliness, loss of economic independence and declining health to be major problems among senior citizens.

Union Cabinet’s recent decision to approve a new law -- the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill 2007, aimed at helping the elderly live in dignity and peace -- is a welcome move. The Bill -- to be introduced in Parliament this monsoon session -- includes provisions to protect our country’s senior citizens besides expressly prescribing the State’s role in taking care of them.

The Bill also places a legal obligation on children and relatives to maintain the senior citizen or parent in order to enable him to live a ‘normal life’. This obligation applies to all Indian citizens, including those living abroad. Children/heirs will henceforth be required to provide sufficient maintenance to senior citizens, while state governments will establish old-age homes in every district.

According to the proposed law, any senior citizen who is unable to maintain himself on his own earnings or property shall have the right to apply to a maintenance tribunal for a monthly allowance from his child/relative. The maintenance tribunal may also, on its own, initiate the process for maintenance. State governments shall set the maximum monthly maintenance allowance. The Bill caps the maximum monthly allowance at Rs 10,000 per month. Punishment for not paying the required monthly allowance shall be Rs 5,000 or up to three months imprisonment, or both.  

In view of the increasing number of cases of harassment of elderly citizens, the Bill’s provision for a tribunal certainly is noteworthy, especially as it will hear out senior citizens’ complaints of neglect, physical injury, mental cruelty, separation from families and their restoration, against their children or any external agency. The tribunal will also be required to dispose of complaints within 90 days. In other words, justice will neither be delayed nor denied.  

The Older Persons’ Bill reflects new priorities as the Indian demographic profile undergoes a perceptible change. It offers a comprehensive framework and a national perspective for developing and administering programme interventions for older persons. In a country where the wellness quotient of 77 million citizens depends on such measures, this Bill is indeed a welcome move. 

 

The Union Cabinet’s recent decision to approve a new law -- the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill 2007 aimed at helping the elderly live in dignity and peace -- is a welcome move towards the protection and care of India’s 77 million elderly citizens

Health Ailments and Treatment
Hypertension, cardiac problems, diabetes, joint pains, kidney infections, cancer, tuberculosis and eye problems are some ailments that generally affect senior citizens. These disorders require proper and in some cases prolonged treatment. Medical treatments for senior citizens include various cures ranging from allopathic to naturopathy treatments.

In this section, contain the information about common health problems that affect senior citizens, prevention tips and treatment centres. If you are an older person, it is important that you get medical checkups regularly to prevent the onset of any of these health conditions. Once they occur, these conditions may take a long time to heal. This leads to a lot of unnecessary expenses and stress. That’s why prevention is the best cure.

If you are unsure about your doctors’ diagnosis, it always helps to get a second or third opinion from other doctors. Beware of fake or unscrupulous doctors who are out to make a quick buck. Government Hospitals are a good guarantee of the right diagnosis plus they are much cheaper than private hospitals. Always consult your doctor before undertaking any exercises, using medicines or dieting.

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Arthritis is the inflammation of the joint. It is the leading cause of disability in people over the age of 55. There are different types of arthritis that cause varied levels of discomfort. Treatment options include physical therapy, occupational therapy and medication as well as procedures such as an Arthroplasty or joint replacement surgery. A balanced diet, body cleansing, physical activity, sweating and relaxation techniques may be used make patients feel better.

Osteoporosis is a silent disease in which bones become extremely fragile. If left untreated, it can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fractures, typically occur in the hip, spine and wrist. They are extremely painful and can take a long time to heal.


Prevention Steps -

  1. Take your recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D daily.
  2. Participate in regular weight-bearing exercise
  3. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
  4. Take a bone density test to check the condition of your bones.

Some Specialised Care Centres

Senior Citizens are susceptible to a variety of mental illnesses. Depression is the most common of these. Symptoms of depression include-

  • Lack of interest in activities you enjoyed doing.
  • Sadness or unexplained crying spells, jumpiness or irritability
  • Loss of memory, inability to concentrate, confusion or disorientation
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Change in appetite and sleep patterns.
  • Persistent fatigue, lethargy, aches and other unexplainable physical problems

Dementias and Pseudo/dementias

These health issues are characterized by confusion, memory loss and disorientation. Diseases such as Parkinson's and Huntington's as well as high blood pressure and strokes may cause it. When organs such as the heart, lungs, thyroid, pituitary and other glands do not function well, mental processes are affected. This leads to Dementia.

Dementia is different from general forgetfulness and confusion that is a part of old age and can be easily reversed.

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s is a slow and gradual disease that begins in the part of the brain that controls the memory. As it spreads to other parts of the brain, it affects a greater number of intellectual, emotional and behavioural abilities. There is no known cause for this disease.

The best way to prevent these conditions from occurring is to keep yourself mentally busy. Take part in activities such as dancing, yoga and meditation. Read books, play board games and interact with other people to enhance the quality of your life. Eat a balanced nutritious diet and avoid alcohol and smoking. Consult your doctor about mineral and vitamin supplements that could be of help. In some cases you may be prescribed medicines.

A Few Special Care Centres