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Ensure affordable health services to elderlies: geriatricians



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By Mahima Devkota, Kathmandu, Oct. 1: Geriatricians have stressed ensuring affordable health care services to the elderlies as they are susceptible to many co-morbidities and most of them lack financial security or insurance.

Many elderlies suffer from multiple morbidities, degenerative diseases due to the aging of the immunity system. As a result, they need long and short-term treatment frequently. However, a majority of the aged people in the country are neither financially secured nor have health insurance coverage, which can give them access to comprehensive health services.

According to Dr. Ramesh Kandel, the first registered geriatrician of Nepal, many elderlies in the country are from the informal sector, mainly involved in the agriculture sector, and hence they lack financial security or awareness about health insurance and are dependent on family members. "Therefore, financial security via universal coverage and affordable health services must be adopted in Nepal for an integrated health care system for the elderlies," he added.

"At least, an elderly person has one chronic disease in one organ, while, some aged people have multiple chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease", said Dr. Kandel. " Some 40 percent of the elderlies in the country have hypertension, 30 percent have diabetics, and most of them have depression, loneliness. Other frequently observed diseases in the old age in Nepal are joint pain, dementia, and indigestion."

Cumulatively, all these hinder the elderlies to continue activities of daily living such as washing, cooking and commuting, leading a healthy and healthy life. Therefore, health care services for aged people include emotional, financial, social, and psychological treatment

"For this, along with government policies, families must ensure that the elderlies have health insurance after they reach a certain age. This will help minimize financial burden as well as ensure that any disease of elderlies is not left unchecked," said Dr. Kandel.

Pratik Lamichhane, a teacher at the Department of Social Work, TU, suggested that the country should emulate health insurance policies as in many developed countries that can cover all health costs of the elderlies. This will ensure health safety to elderlies, he added. 

Likewise, Amrit Bahadur Thapa, medical co-coordinator at Geriatrics Society of Nepal, said many diseases of elderlies are left untreated and many of them are uncared for because of the lack of access to health care services.

Currently, 24 geriatric wards have been added at the federal and provincial hospitals dedicated to the treatment of elderlies and the government has planned to extend services to 25 more wards.

Some 8.1 per cent of people in the total population are above 60-year old in Nepal where above 60 years are considered senior citizens. Globally, older persons, 65 above, account for 6 per cent of the total population.

International Day for Older Persons has been marked on October 1 since 1991 in the initiative of the United Nations.