Restrictions on mobility left many senior citizens, living by themselves, helpless and alone in the absence of a family member who could not visit them even if they wanted. In the wake of the crisis, they, along with their children, turned to eldercare organisations for assistance.
Samarth, an organisation based in Gurugram, has offered help to over 300 families across the country. They received about 25-30 requests every day from elderly people and children living in a different city or abroad, unable to take care of their old parents.
“These children want us to support for an ongoing need such as parents’ medical treatment, post-covid care, isolation, mental health, home support etc, or as a proactive safety net and support system in case they have an emergency, or for long-term support for their physical and engagement needs ensuring care and support is available for all their requirements. These include people not only from India but 20+ countries around the world who have parents in large and small towns of India,” Asheesh Gupta, founder and chief care officer tells indianexpress.
In the case of Alserv, too, which is currently focusing on looking after Covid-positive elderly patients, nearly half of the calls they receive on a day are from children who are settled in another country. “Many of these parents are not even Covid positive, but their children are worried and want somebody to take care of them and talk to them in their absence,” states co-founder and director Jagadish Ramamoorthy.
Besides, some of the largest multinationals have also extended the option of parent care to their employees. “We are being approached by many organisations,” adds Gupta.
How elder care organisations are helping
This is not restricted to providing nurses or caregivers for meeting medical emergencies. The services entail basic requirements like payment of bills, deliveries or even repair. Professional deep cleaning and disinfection — after a patient recovers from coronavirus — have been incorporated by Alserv. Samarth’s care team also facilitates fall-proofing and management of the staff to ensure safety and security at home.
On the other hand, senior care homes at Antara, a Max Group company, not only provide quarantine facilities, but also preventive stays for Covid-negative seniors. “As the pandemic continues to threaten lives, Antara has ensured the training of the team members to address the dynamic health needs of seniors. Our entire team is trained to offer an integrated and holistic approach to wellness with strong preventive health check-up programmes, round-the-clock medical services, and well-equipped emergency response systems,” says Dr Shabnam Mir, consultant physician and head of Clinical Services.
“Not just that, our team members are also equipped to offer care at residents’ homes, including services like dedicated nursing, diagnostics, physiotherapy, and critical care, when required,” adds Dr Shilpi Kulshreshtha, medical doctor at Antara.
Day-to-day assistance with chores and medical facilities meet the needs of the elderly to a great extent, but they do not compensate completely for the absence of a caring family member. Studies have shown pandemic-driven isolation and loneliness have deeply impacted senior citizens, leading to a surge in mental health issues. Organisations are making sure they address senior citizens’ emotional and mental health needs as well.
“At Samarth, we don’t focus only on transactional services but our promise is to be ‘like the son or daughter’ who is genuinely concerned in the long-term well-being of the parent. We try to ensure every elder under our care continues to see purpose in their life by encouraging their interests, enabling them to contribute to others even if in small ways, keep them engaged and live life more fully. In case it is required, we also bring in professional counsellors and specialists,” Gupta asserts. Care managers engage the elderly by taking them out, playing games, reading, writing, introducing new hobbies, and so on.
Talking about how Alserv is helping in this regard, Ramamoorthy adds, “Having somebody full time who is able to talk to them or help them makes a difference. We have our own relationship managers who keep talking to them on a regular basis, calling them multiple times to ensure they are able to communicate.”
At Antara, too, special sessions are organised to maintain the happiness index by engaging the seniors in fun activities. The team has also put together a monthly activity calendar.
With the country recording a huge number of Covid cases in the past few months, these elder care organisations have had to augment their operations to meet the needs of as many as possible. At Antara, queries have gone up to 800 a day, where the call centers only have a capacity of 100-150 calls a day. Alserv, on the other hand, has roughly helped around 500+ families in the last two months, all while overcoming several logistical challenges owing shortage of medical supplies and lockdown restrictions. Ramamoorthy says, “We faced challenges while moving caregivers from one place to another. Now we only have resident nurses.”
Adds Gupta, “On some occasions during the extreme lockdown, the family of our care teams have also pitched in, driving them around to ensure supplies are delivered, or cash is made available to them to pay their staff or buy things.”
And amidst all this, the pandemic has, in a way, compelled people to reassess and reinvigorate senior care in the country. “The senior population in India is fast growing with over 20 million elders who stay alone, and the number is slated to rise in the next two decades. In India, senior care services are still at a nascent stage, but are expected to pick up due to the direct impact of the pandemic on the elderly population. This segment is undergoing a radical change in its lifestyle and needs. From being a sacrifice-all population, it now has the aspiration and the financial means to fulfill their wants right from travel to investments to self-care. We need more structured care programs, targeted policies, specialized medical services, senior-friendly architecture, and economic/ financial interventions to ensure a better quality of life for seniors,” says Dr Mir.
As published in The Indian Express