In a bid to support the growing geriatric population, Karnataka's department of Health and Family Welfare will invest Rs 101 lakh to set up centres dedicated to care and treatment of aged patients. The department has a plan of action to start these centres in all the 29 districts. On an immediate basis six districts have been identified to open up the centres for geriatric care by February.

These districts are Tumkur, Dharwad, Chikamagalur, Madikere, Kolar and Bijapur. The centres will be expanded to 18 districts in a phased manner.

Every centre is being designed as disabled friendly wards. Each of the 10-bed centre will have five separate wards for male and female. The health department has earmarked separate supply of medicines and medical equipments like nebulizers, ventilators, ECG to name a few. Efforts are also on to ensure that the doctors manning the centres along with a team of specialists are trained in geriatric care. The medical experts will work round-the-clock at all the centres.

Geriatric healthcare is a specialized study which deals with the complex conditions of the aged population, stated Dr S Prakash, joint director, Directorate of Health & Family Welfare. The branch of geriatric care requires the team work of multiple specialists. These will not only include geriatrician, geriatric nurse, primary care clinician and other sub-role nurses but also cardiologists, nephrologists, respiratory physicians and neurologists.

In order to meet the requirements of such centres, Indira Gandhi Open National University provides a year-long training. The personnel will be trained here before they are actually hired to work at the centres, he added.

With adequate care and counseling, the elderly can spend rest of the few years comfortably. The care on aged patients will primarily focus on prevention and treatment of diseases.

Right now, there is lack of a dedicated curriculum in medical schools covering geriatric care. There are also no training courses in the post graduate level in the field. But the need for specialists to take care of the elderly is becoming imperative. Senior citizens are prone to degeneration, stroke, malignancy and prostrate problems, in addition to diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and Parkinson Disease.

In Bangalore the geriatric care will be a 50 bed centre and is being operational in association with the Nightingale Medical Trust in early 2009. In the area of training Nightingale Medical Trust along with the National Institute of Social Defence will hold a six-month diploma course in geriatric care. The course will cover social gerontology, basic geriatrics, applied geriatrics and geriatric nursing, Selections will be made through Common Aptitude Test (CAT).Candidates between the ages of 18 to 45 are eligible for the course.

Out of the one billion population in the country, 7 crore are above 60 years and the number is expected to double in 10 years, according to a study on geriatric care in the Asian region.