National helpline for elders opens today

National helpline for elders opens today

The pandemic has brought in new worries, and those advanced in age are jittery. October 1 is International Day for Older Persons

Nightingale’s Medical Trust manages the Bengaluru helpline from an office at the Basaveshwaranagar police station. A counselling session in progress.

The National Helpline for Senior Citizens (Elder line), whose pilot operations began on May 18, will officially be launched on October 1.

“The Nightingale’s Medical Trust in Bengaluru has been chosen as an implementing agency for their services in Karnataka,” says Swati Bhandary, associate director of Nightingale’s Medical Trust.

The Trust manages the Elder’s Helpline for Bengaluru Urban from an office in Basaveshwaranagar police station, and works with the police when their intervention is called for.

Dr Radha S Murthy, managing trustee of Nightingales Medical Trust, says the first year of the pandemic mostly went into coordination of rescue work and care-giving, while the second year mainly calls for problem solving. Overall, the number of calls is on the rise (see box).

“Due to restriction in movement, complaints were received over calls and written complaints were sent via post,” she says. With tribunals not working, cases pertaining to maintenance of elders and property disputes remained unsolved. Many elders who wanted to revoke the gift deeds they had given to their children were forced to wait, Swati told Metrolife.   

Elders’ helpline case studies

An 84-year-old male had a dentist-tenant who neither paid rent during the pandemic months nor vacated the premises. The helpline intervened and got the dentist to pay his dues and move out.

Sixty-five year old Christina wanted her son to pay maintenance. The helpline intervened and got him to take care of her financial and medical needs.

Ramamma, 70, complained of harassment from her son. After helpline intervention, he accepted that he had indeed committed a mistake and agreed to pay the maintenance sought by his mother.

Walk-ins at Nimhans psychiatry unit up by almost 50%

The Geriatric Psychiatry Unit at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences has seen a near 50% increase in patients walking in after the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Dr P T Sivakumar, Professor of psychiatry and Head, Geriatric Psychiatry Unit, says the number of patients rose from 10 to 15 every day last year to 20 to 25 after the second wave.


The Geriatric Psychiatry Unit, NIMHANS, conducts a Vayomanasa Sanjeevani session at an old-age home in the city.

“Their existing illnesses got precipitated because of Covid… hearing about a loved one being affected or even watching what was happening around them made them anxious. The uncertainty significantly affected their overall health and well-being,” he says. The anxiety levels among the elders increased, he observes, because many of them are living alone.

“Although children accompany them during the treatment, many of them don’t live together even when they live in the same city. This has added to the complexity of care,” he says. Siblings fighting over property and who should look after them leaves elderly parents jittery.

On a brighter note, Dr Sivakumar says, an initiative called Vayomanasa Sanjeevani has about 40 senior citizens volunteering and hosting quizzes and games. “These activities have generated a lot of interest among the senior citizens. It has been a year since we started this and we would like to take it to a larger number,” he says.

Vayomanasa Sanjeevani can be contacted on 96064 31873 or vms.nimhans@gmail.com. The website is vmsnimhans.in  

Extra worries since last year

The pandemic years have brought extra misery to the elderly, going by the number of complaints registered at the elders’ helpline. It saw 535 complaints in 2019-20, and 1,330 in 2020-21. The numbers rose by 150 per cent in just one year. In 235 cases, police intervention was necessary.  The complaints related to elders facing harassment and getting cheated by family members stood at 372 in 2019-20, but it fell to 206 in 2020-21. Why the drop? Premkumar Raja, co-founder Nightingales Medical Trust, says conflict resolution was limited because of the lockdowns, and the elders’ inability to step out of their homes. “Legal advice over conference calls and online consultation was not feasible as senior citizens preferred face-to-face sessions,” he says. So while the number of calls went up, the number of complaints saw a drop. Many elders did not have the privacy or the help to file written complaints.

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