For an Ageing India, These Elder Homes Offer Quiet Dignity & Love

With elderly who need medical assistance or suffer from dementia, staying alone at home doesn’t remain an option.

6 min read
Image used for representational purposes.

India is ageing at a rapid pace. According to the Population Census 2011, the world’s second most populated country has 104 million senior citizens and it is expected to increase three times to 340 million by 2050. The overall expected growth in the elder population from 2000 to 2050 is pegged at 56%.

More recently, a sample size of 10,000 elderly people were surveyed by Delhi-based NGO Agewell Foundation and it found that almost every fourth elderly; 23.44% of the respondents, were living alone in the country.

Yet another interesting survey called ‘Jug Jug Jiyenge’ was conducted by IVH Senior Care with Wellness Health and You.

It found that 10% elders surveyed considered physical health to be a challenge whereas 66% worried about maintaining their social life and everyday needs. This finding is in stark contrast to how 67% of the children living away think that health of parents is of primary concern with only 18% worried about their parent’s social life or everyday needs.
“The most surprising finding was that adults who need to socialise or indulge in some recreational activity after 5 days of work to rejuvenate could not imagine their parents socialising. 96% of children imagine their parents to be homebound. However, 79% of senior citizens want to be out of home socialising with friends and relatives. It is important that children, both NRIs and otherwise, have an insight of their needs rather than rely on assumptions.
Swadeep Srivastava, founder of Delhi based IVH Senior Care

Prashanth Reddy knows this story all too well. When he was compelled to move to the States for work, he constantly worried about how his parents were doing back in India. He finally quit and returned - only to realise that a lot of Indians were facing the same problem.

That is how the Hyderabad-based Anvayaa was born.

Anvayaa means family in Sanskrit.
Anvayaa means family in Sanskrit.
(Photo Courtesy: Anvayaa)

Prashanth co-founded Anvayaa which means family in Sanskrit, with Deepika Reddy, an MBA graduate and certified financial analyst in 2016. They wanted to be the first in the country to use technology to create a 360 degree platform for health, daily assessment care, social and emotional care of India’s elderly.

“The elderly who are a part of the Anvayaa family mostly live by themselves with a feeling of isolation or pain due to living away from their children. Our clients are mostly their children who live far away and subscribe to our services that range from the elder’s medical care, bill payments to intellectual companionship.”
Prashanth, founder-director, Anvayaa Kin Care

His start-up has tied up with 120 different partners, from sectors like healthcare, hospitality, pharma and even plumbers and lawyers for every kind of service possible. The employees of his organization are also more than just staff - compassion and expertise in the medical field being essential to cater to the elderly need.

Residential Care for the Unwell Elder

With elderly who need constant medical assistance or suffer from dementia, staying alone at home doesn’t remain an option.

That is where companies like Epoch Elder Care step in.

While co-founders Kabir Chadha and Neha Sinha had started Epoch keeping intellectual companionship in mind, they soon switched to residential care services and opened their first assisted living home in Gurgaon called Vermeer House in 2014.

“Initially, someone qualified in life sciences would visit an elderly for a few hours and then report to their children. But it was my insight during that time that once an elderly was diagnosed of something, especially dementia, there was no service in India. If an elderly fell, they wouldn’t need companionship, they’d need care.”
Neha, CEO of Epoch and a clinical psychologist

Today, Epoch has two more assisted living homes; Frida House in Gurgaon and Monet House in Pune.

But it is not a regulated industry in India yet, with no policy or protocols like those in developed nations.

“We thought there would be a huge transformation in this field in five years, but that didn’t happen. However, since we have plenty of corporate people subscribing to our care services, there is more awareness and lesser stigma attached to putting one’s parent in external care.”
Neha, CEO of Epoch and a clinical psychologist

Services of such magnitude need a large network of people - from specialists like neurologists, cardiologists, physiotherapists, nutritionists to volunteers and school children who happily come and spend time with residents.

“Every person we work with understands the sensitive nature of our services and is explained the importance of communication with dementia or respect for confidentiality. More than 50% of our residents have dementia and we do our best to keep them engaged, physically fit and socially active.”
Neha, CEO of Epoch and a clinical psychologist

Neha, incidentally, is a dementia care specialist herself.

The work done is extremely rewarding as well, as most professionals working in elderly care confirm.

“I worked as a short service commissioned officer but after leaving the Army, I joined Epoch. At the end of the day, I feel satisfied with small things like, if I was able to feed a resident or give relief from pain to a dementia resident, when you really don’t know what is the cause and where is the pain.”
Prasita Nair, Epoch’s head of clinical operations

Difficult Move for Many

For these elderly, moving to a new home is never easy, but Neha believes they have been lucky as most residents have taken a liking towards the arrangement, which is much more personalised and professional when compared to a ‘vridh ashram’.

Mrs V, a 72-year-old non-dementia resident of their Pune home says,

“Ye koi normal buzurg logo ke ghar jaisa nahi hai, hume ghar jaisa lagta hai. Sablog khayal rakhte hai, hamari pareshaani samajhte hai. Hume khush rakhte hai,g har walo se phone karate hai. (This is not like an ordinary old age home, the residents feel at home. Everyone takes care of us - they understand our problems and keep us happy. They also help us connect to our loved ones).”
Mrs V

Similarly, 88-year-old Mrs M feels her Gurgaon elder home is like a new family.

“My children are not around, so I felt I needed someone. Staff is good, they listen to me, and I teach them as well.”
Mrs M

“‘All is Well’ is What My Dad Says”

Manoj Sharma, a 35-year-old physical therapist in New York, has heaved a sigh of relief ever since he has involved Anvayaa for his parents’ care.

Manoj Sharma.
Manoj Sharma.
(Photo Courtesy: Anvayaa)
“My parents live independently in Hyderabad but my dad was bed-ridden and my mom, helpless. I was hesitant to ask for help from friends and relatives frequently so I searched the internet and came across Anvayaa who appointed a care manager for my parents. They were regularly visited by doctors as well. Six months later, my dad is able to stand and my mom is at peace. I can even be a part of their celebrations now. ‘All is well’ is what my dad says each time I call him.”
Manoj Sharma

Amritha Gupta too was looking at various establishments that could understand the medical duties of her father-in-law, things she and her husband could not do due to professional commitments. “Subscribing to such services has been like finding a one-stop shop for all elderly care needs,” she says.

Amritha Gupta.
Amritha Gupta.
(Photo Courtesy: Anvayaa)

(Runa Mukherjee Parikh is an independent journalist with several national and international media houses like The Wire, Bust and The Swaddle. She previously reported for the Times of India. She is the author of the book 'Your Truth, My Truth ('. You can follow her at @tweetruna.)

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