Autumn Meetings in Budapest

by Iva Holmerova

In response to the urgings of Professor Des O Neill for European geriatricians to begin blogging activity for our EUGMS blog, it seems a good idea to write about “our week “.

Firstly I would write about previous weeks because other interesting events occurred during those. You’ve already read about the most interesting event for us – the EUGMS Congress in Venice – so let me briefly remind you of ‘those’ that the Congress in Venice immediately preceded.

Dr. Agnes Egervári, Professor Béla Székács and other Hungarian colleagues organised a series of events in order to take advantage of the presence of the current and future Presidents of the EUGMS, Professor Jean-Pierre Michel and Professor Timo Strandberg, to oblige us all with their expertise before attending the Congress in Venice. On the 28th September,  therefore, a seminar on geriatric long-term care was hosted for the participation of these representatives of EUGMS and other Hungarian participants. Also invited were members of the ELTECA working group; Profs. Katarzyna Wiecorzowska-Tobis from Poznan, Poland, Debbie Tolson from Glasgow, UK, Cecilia Rokusek of Fort Lauderdale Florida, USA, and Iva Holmerová from Prague, CZ, who happily met again to continue their discussions on long-term geriatric care and the opportunities for cooperation.

The contributions of all speakers at the seminar were recorded and presented, in a concise version, at a celebratory conference for the International Day of Older People on October 1st, which was attended by the majority us, along with a short commentary. The conference in Hungary was truly historic: it was the first time that the highest representatives of both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs had met to talk about the topic of geriatric long-term care in Hungary, and in particular on the issues of cooperation in geriatrics and social services respectively). It was therefore very useful and important to be able to hear propositions and contributions from foreign participants, including messages from both the current and next Presidents of EUGMS.

Countries in the regions (Central and Eastern Europe) are faced with very similar problems: a very important one is the lack of connectivity between health and social care and the unsatisfactory communication of both ministries. Questions concerning care of the elderly and geriatric medicine are mostly underestimated in both sectors. It was especially important that they could hear presentations from Prof Jean-Pierre Michel on what attention is given to geriatric care in Europe, and the presentation by Professor Timo Stranberg who spoke about strategies on healthy aging in Europe.

In the time between seminars and conferences we had the opportunity to visit the long-term care centre and in Budapest and the nursing home that Agnes Egervári founded with her husband and where she works. We also attended lessons in dance therapy with clients of the home.

Although we worked hard – and on weekends too – not all our time in Budapest was spent working! In addition to seeing facilities for older people and conference rooms, we also visited historical places and were invited to wine cellars where sparkling wine was produced by the conventional champagne method i.e. the gradual tilting of the bottle and turning it around on its axis so that the part containing the yeast was, after opening, skilfully replaced by a different wine or liqueur. A unique experience!

These wine cellars are near Biatorbágy, the place where the Gizella nursing home is run by Agnes Egervári. It iss a beautiful place among fertile rolling hills a few kilometres west of Budapest, an area that was once empty after being besieged by Ottomans and later the Danube Germans moved here (Danube Swabians) to inhabit this desolate landscape. They began to cultivate the land, introducing viniculture. Our master winemaker spoke Hungarian, but when he heard Katarzyna and me and how we spoke in Polish- Czech, he joined us and spoke a beautiful, ancient Slovak, because he comes from Transcarpathia, a place that was, long ago, part of Czechoslovakia and is now in the Ukraine.

Driven by a fear of the hearty Hungarian cuisine (which was confirmed), the next day we rode through Budapest on bicycles: Buda Castle , the Fisherman’s Bastion, the waterfront on Margaret Island, the Parliament building, past the Jewish Quarter and the famous synagogue and back around Buda hill and the Gellért thermal baths for a view overlooking Budapest .

Budapest is a beautiful and historic city that is worth visiting at any time of the year. Hungary is also the country where geriatricians often collaborate and communicate with each other and with other professionals. It’s possible to see many examples of good practice that are worth following in other countries, especially those that have similarly difficult conditions. Therefore, such joint meetings are so important. Thank you, Agnes and Béla and all the other colleagues who organised with such care this meeting in Budapest.

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