Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: Nearly 15 caregivers from various non-governmental organisations in the city would learn all about counselling skills at a five-day training workshop on ‘Capacity building of key functionaries of NGOs in Geriatric counselling' that got under way here on Monday.

On the first day, the participants were taught the thumb-rule of counselling: developing listening skills. “A non-judgemental and in-depth listening by a counsellor allows the clients to open up their problems. It gives them emotional relief,” the trainers said.

The participants also narrated their experience as caregivers for people with mental disorders. The need to provide quality care to senior citizens and set up counselling centre for elderly were stressed by a section of participants at the workshop, which is being organised by the National Institute of Social Defence, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, and Heritage Foundation.

Sathienathan, one of the trainers, spoke about the common psychological disorders such as depression, delirium, dementia and psychosis. Discussing ways to handle such patients, he said a range of treatments including individual psychotherapy, family counselling, medication, sensory stimulation and exercise should be combined for noticeable results.

Counsellors should adopt a humane approach when treating persons with chronic ailments, he said. “There is no universal rule for counselling. Many counsellors devise their own style out of experience. One should find out what suits both the patient and caregiver.”

The participants were also given a list of steps to be followed when treating a patient. They should listen, develop a plan to treat patients, evaluate the progress and get periodical feedback from the senior citizens and those living with them.

Sessions on geriatric healthcare, counselling for people at old-age homes, and techniques involved in counselling senior citizens would be organised as part of the workshop. The participants would also be taken on a field visit to old-age homes.

Members of the Federation of Senior Citizens Associations of Tamil Nadu, which convened the meeting, discussed ways to sensitise younger people to the needs of senior citizens. Programme coordinator V.Balambal, the Federation president D.Rajasekaran and its general secretary S.M. Chellaswamy spoke.