A Clinic for Chennai Seniors
Noted geriatrician Dr VS Natarajan is considered the Father of Indian Geriatrics and was instrumental in pioneering many initiatives for elders in Chennai. He tells us of some of these could benefit elders in living a healthy and active life.
The simple unassuming Adiparashakthi Clinic in Kilpauk, Chennai, does not give away the importance it holds for many senior citizens in the city. Until you spot the neatly framed Padmashri on the wall, the country’s third highest civilian honour that was conferred on geriatrician Dr VS Natarajan in 2012.
A tireless advocate of active ageing and a good example of it himself, Dr Natarajan is considered the Father of Indian Geriatrics.and in the late 70s, set up India’s first geriatric outpatient wing at the Madras Medical College and Hospital. He firmly believes that if managed well, old age can be a good period in a person’s life. We asked him when should a person visit a geriatrician. “When there are multiple disorders an elderly person is suffering from,” comes the answer. More than anything, Dr Natarajan believes that people should try to stay active and healthy and take preventive measures about issues that may have a solution. To highlight this, this senior geriatrician has been actively involved with several projects to benefit the elderly in Chennai. We take a look at some of his initiatives:
Launched in 2013, the Immunisation Centre aims at keeping seniors healthy by taking preventive measures. According to Dr Natarajan, in old age, the immunity becomes low due to several factors. The elderly need immunisation for protection against serious infectious diseases, just as children do. Common infection in older adults include viral infections like influenza and bacterial infections like pneumonia. While Dr Natarajan’s Immunisation Centre provides vaccines for Influenza, Pneumonia, Hepatitis B, Tetanus and Typhoid, he points out that the Pneumonia vaccine is most important when it comes to elders. “Pneumonia is a bacterial disease and with age immunity is low or people have multiple issues like diabetes, asthma, hypertension or chronic bronchitis; this is when the infection can flare up, leading to further complications. It can create breathing problem and the bacteria can enter the bloodstream, leading to septicaemia and even death.”
Dr Natarajan says Pneumonia is a preventable disease and one shot, costing approximately Rs 3,800 can give a person lifelong immunity (if necessary, revaccination can be done 5 years after first vaccination), which is why it is highly recommended by him to elders.
Memory loss is a common problem faced by many with advancing age. Memory impairment may be the early sign of dementia in elderly. “As longevity increases, it is accompanied by memory disturbances,” says Dr Natarajan, speaking of why he started the memory clinic. He feels only five per cent of patients suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and around 30 per cent of patients who visit the clinic exhibit minimal cognitive impairment. “Persons above the age of 70 should get examined by a psychiatrist, including people who have suffered a head injury at a young age or with a family history of dementia. He attributes anxiety and depression as possible causes of memory loss and says that if dementia is identified in its early stages, it is treatable. “I advise all seniors aged 70 and above to undergo a memory assessment test, which assesses any abnormality,” comes his advice. The Memory Clinic is open to all above the age of 60 years with a memory disorder. Patients are reviewed for a minimum period of three months.
Geriatric Housecall Program
Started during Dr Natarajan’s stint as President of the Senior Citizen’s Bureau, Chennai, The Geriatric Housecall Program is a helpline to bring doctors to the doorstep of the elderly. The team includes doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists, dietician and nurses. It was launched mainly to help the elders in Chennai, aged 60-70 years and above, with restricted mobility and acute medical problems. The program has a network of doctors who attend to the patients residing in their area or nearby. So far the program has benefited several elderly in Chennai, though Dr Natarajan wishes that more doctors signed up for the program. The aim is to revive the old tradition of house visits by the family physician which often enabled the patient to get promote medical aid or the right reference for further tests or checkups.
To know more about these programs or avail of one, please contact:
Adhiparasakth Clinic / Memory Clinic,
Old No.18 A, New No. 50, Flowers Road,
Kilpauk, Chennai – 600 010.
— Dr VS Natarajan spoke to Reshmi Chakraborty