As the population of Pakistan grows older, nearly nine per cent is 55 years of age or above, the need to properly address the healthcare needs of the elderly is taking on added importance. Poverty, large families, and a general lack of awareness are increasingly compromising the quality of life for the country’s elderly population.
Recognising that the provision of healthcare to Pakistan’s senior citizens requires specialised training, the Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery, is now offering Care of the Elderly, a course which has been specifically designed to provide training in geriatrics to nursing and non-nursing students at the undergraduate level for the first time in Pakistan.
“In my opinion nursing is going through an unprecedented change in Pakistan. Introduction of Care of the Elderly ensures that students have knowledge and skills that are aligned to meet the nation’s requirements”, asserts Jacqueline Maria Dias, Director, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, AKU-SONAM.
Jacqueline Maria Dias, who is responsible for the implementation of the HEC curriculum at AKU-SONAM, feels that the continuous improvement in life expectancy and slow decline in birth rate will increase the challenges of providing age appropriate care.
Commenting on the importance of the course, Samina Vertejee, the course coordinator, said “Nurses have a vital role to play in older people’s care. We are at the front of the service - we see, we hear, we do. But are we prepared, are we supported and are there enough of us to cope with these challenges?”
The purpose of this course is to provide information for healthcare providers on the demographics of aging, age-related changes, medication use and misuse, assessment of geriatric patients, supporting family caregivers and elder abuse, she added.
The course includes both virtual and face to face classes in addition to the practical and clinical experience at various old age homes, communities and respite care centres. Extensive clinical components allow students to receive extensive hands-on training and understand the importance of care of elderly as a specialised area of study.
So far 37 BScN students at AKU-SONAM have taken the course.