Helpline for the elderly in Calcutta
A healthcare company and service provider will launch a helpline for the elderly on Monday to provide them with medical support and counselling.
Many elderly live alone in Calcutta and the lockdown has left them vulnerable. Physicians, psychiatrists, doctors trained in palliative care and psychologists will be accessible over phone to answer their queries.
Care Continuum, which provides the elderly and the infirm in the city with medical support and other services, will run the helpline 12 hours a day from Monday.
“There are many elderly people who might need monitoring and screening by a doctor because of a chronic ailment. Many might not have access to doctors now… also, all their queries might not be regarding medication but about their health, which doctors can answer over phone,” Rana Mukherjee, a surgeon and one of the founder directors of Care Continuum, said.
“We feel many of their queries could be related to the coronavirus and whether they should be worried about cough and cold or general health problems such as high sugar levels,” Mukherjee said.
The phone consultation will be free.
Care Continuum was started by Mukherjee and two others — Soma Bhattacharjee and Maitreyee Bhattacharjee.
The helpline (7044074000) will be active from 8am to 8pm every day during the lockdown, of which three hours will be specifically dedicated to counselling (2pm-5pm).
Many of the elderly are caught between the “devil and the deep blue sea” because staying at home gives rise to negative thoughts and stepping out has the risk of exposure, Mukherjee said.
“There is a feeling of isolation, stress and hopelessness… more so for the elderly because they feel they have a short life to live and what if that is taken away… they could be dwelling on such negative emotions.”
Five doctors will take calls in shifts.
Many of the elderly in the city are alone; their children live abroad or in other cities. Attendants have stopped going to most homes because of the lockdown.
Doctors feel it is important to reach out to such people because being alone can make them more vulnerable.
“For many, their sense of hearing or vision is compromised… the lockdown has taken away from them whatever they could hear or see of the outside world… so, it takes a toll on them mentally,” Soma Bhattacharjee, a doctor in palliative medicine, said. “If they can reach out to people, they will feel others are concerned about them. Often, they don’t want to call their family members who might be abroad or might have their own challenges.”
She, however, said the service should not be thought of as a substitute for seeking emergency care for the critically ill.
If a doctor feels an elderly person needs to be admitted to hospital, Care Continuum can help with an ambulance and other admission formalities, Mukherjee said.