MOSCOW, October 10 (Itar-Tass) - This year, the World Mental Health Day, which is marked on October 10 (since 1992), draws society's attention to the problems of the elderly. A reform of the psychiatric service system in Russia must lead to fostering "a culture of robust ageing", a psychiatry expert maintains.
"Protecting the mental health of the elderly as of now is one of challenging problems of psychiatry," Zurab Kekelidze, the RF Health Ministry's chief psychiatrist and acting Director of the Serbsky State Social and Forensic Psychiatry Research Centre, believes. His opinion is that the demographic situation which has taken shape now requires an immediate change of the psychiatric aid system so as "to shift the centre of gravity from the in-hospitals to the out-patient network".
"This refers to psychoneurological dispensaries, the establishment of psychiatric departments at general hospitals and the rendering of (psychiatric) aid in polyclinics by particular psychiatry specialists," the expert explained. Efforts widely to spread various types of psychiatric aid, Professor Kekelidze pointed out, will help "change society's attitude to the elderly - at times they are regarded as 'a drag on society' - whereas it must be ensured that they be viewed as its basis".
Specialists at the Serbsky Institute are concerned over the increased number of cases of cruel treatment of elderly persons, particularly those suffering from mental illnesses typical for their age - depressions, old-age mental deficiency, and Alzheimer's disease.
"A growth of fraudulent actions for the purpose of taking possession of property, including the drawing up of purchase and sale contracts, deeds of a gift, and wills is observed in Russia," related Lyubov Pishchikova, senior researcher the Institute's Department for Exogenic Mental Disorders. Relatives seek to secure through law-courts that the aged be recognized legally incapable and be placed in specialized boarding houses.
"In view of this, the number of forensic psychiatric expert examinations steadily grows at the Serbsky Centre with regard to the elderly. These account for almost one-quarter of all expert examinations," the expert said. The Institute specialists specially emphasized that it is now essential to work out effective laws in Russia to uphold the rights of the elderly.
According to World Health Organization data, 29 million elderly people in Europe (19.4 percent) experience such psychological violence, six million (3.8 percent) fall victim to financial abuses, four million (2.7 percent) are subjected to physical violence, and one million (0.7 percent) were sexually abused. Every year 8,500 old-timers are killed, with members of their families being the perpetrators of crime in 30 percent of cases.
Besides, 35.6 percent of elderly people in the world suffer from mental deficiency and Alzheimer's disease; their number is expected to grow up to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050, which is regarded by specialists as an epidemic of this type of mental diseases.
UN data have it that a people's irreversible ageing process is observed throughout the world. In view of the decline in birth rate and a lengthening of life expectancy, the number of people beyond 60 years of age will grow from 10 to 33 percent by 2050 to two billion. In Russia, the share of elderly people is expected to grow from 22.9 percent to 29 percent within less than two decades.