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I, too, have a dream

Contributor: Marina Kotsani

Origin/affiliation: Geriatrician, CHRU Nancy, France and member of the working group for the development of Geriatric Medicine in Greece of the Hellenic Society for the Study and Research of Aging

I guess Mr Martin Luther King would not be offended by the use of his emblematic phrase by humble small people like me. My dream is also about equality and justice. Like many things in life, where you are born affects (even though not determines) what are your chances.

I studied medicine and then trained in Internal Medicine in a system where Geriatrics was (and still is) mostly unknown, in a country were disabled older people are taken care by their (mostly female) family members. I have live memories of my grandmother taking care at the same time of her demented father and her bedridden mother. I experienced a health system were medical decisions were too often influenced by the absolute number of chronological age. At a point of relative professional maturity, I suddenly found myself in another country, in another healthcare system, in another world. Thankfully, I had to reset my mind and my medical (and “social context”) thinking in the values and principles of Geriatric Medicine.

My grandmother has always been the inspiration, the same woman double-caregiver to her old parents. She bought me my first toy-stethoscope and she inspired me to love “the grandmothers and grandfathers of the world”. Now she is ill, and I am away abroad because I could not follow my dream (become a geriatrician) in my birth country, still no Geriatrics there… A cancer diagnosis is even more stressful for a 84 years’ old woman in a health system without Geriatrics or Palliative Care infrastructure, especially if you know and compare...

I have a dream: to live, work and get old in a world where every older person has the same chances to be treated with care and respect by the health system and society they refer to. Where each health care professional will be trained, since their early educational course, in the wonderful art of Geriatrics. Where, no matter which geographical corner you find yourself at, you will enjoy quality health services and not need to worry about needless suffering and stressful helplessness when confronting aging and illness.

A dream is not enough. But it is an excellent starting point to work on.

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