Providing best-practice multidisciplinary care for the elderly was the focus of the recent Middle East Academy for Medicine of Aging’s (MEAMA) fourth advanced postgraduate course in aged care hosted by Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Geriatrics Department recently.
The course, attended by physicians, nurses, social workers, dietitians, therapists and pharmacists, was delivered by local and international experts, aimed to address the serious disparity between the growing aging population and the number of healthcare providers trained to meet the unique healthcare needs of older adults.
“The elderly population in the region is increasing very rapidly. Right now, we have between four to nine percent of the population in the region above the age of 65,” said Dr. Abdul Razak Abyad, MEAMA Chairman and one of the founding members of the academy, which was established in 2002 to stimulate the development of healthcare services for older people in the region.
The eldest members of a family hold revered positions in many societies, and other members of the family assume responsibility for their welfare and survival. However, Dr. Abyad pointed out that it was proving impossible for many people to preserve this aspect of their culture due to economic forces beyond their control, resulting in a rising elderly population with increasingly unmet healthcare needs.
“There is a need to develop geriatrics and gerontology services in the region and a need to develop multidisciplinary care rather than just developing physicians. Research and data from all over the world show that when an elderly patient is cared for by a multidisciplinary team, the patient outcome improves drastically. Another gap in the region is the lack of comprehensive services for the elderly,” said Dr Abyad, who also highlighted the need to increase health professionals’ sensitivity to the issue of aging and the need to prioritize elderly issues at health policy level.
Dr Abyad said most European countries are moving away from institutions and more towards home healthcare and community services for the elderly, pointing out that HMC, through Rumailah Hospital, has pioneered home healthcare for elderly people in the region. “HMC has a very good geriatrics team, which is multidisciplinary and is growing; and HMC has been very supportive of various programs dealing with the care of the elderly,” he noted.
During the course, participants had the opportunity to learn from experts from the Middle East and Europe about elderly care ailments, including conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, stroke, and diseases common in the region such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
The MEAMA program is supported by many regional and international organizations and is also accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Participants receive a certificate after finishing four sessions, with each session lasting four days. Ten of the current 80 participants graduated during the course while the rest will have an opportunity to finish the program in the future as the program cycle is repeated every two years.
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