The elderly in cities are extra-vulnerable

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on May 02, 2021

Life in isolation: Senior care services are stretched to meet the surge in demand for nursing, oxygen and ICU beds   -  THE HINDU

Senior care services are stretched to meet the surge in demand for nursing, oxygen and ICU beds, as Covid rampages the country

“It’s not a good time” is a constant refrain in a conversation with Archana Gautam Sharma at Samvedna Senior Care.

As the conversation unravels, you understand why. The last several days have seen a manifold increase in desperate calls seeking an ICU bed, a nurse or an oxygen concentrator, she says. And when she’s not able to fulfil any such request, there is a sense of despair. “It’s not easy to say ‘no’ to people,” she says, adding, “ït’s not a good time.”

Sharma founded the seven-year-old centre, which addresses the emergency care and well-being of senior citizens. Operating in the Delhi-NCR region, they are in the thick of the region’s surging coronavirus cases and deaths.

Calls to their home-care service have increased five-fold, she says, even from people not signed up with them. “We are trying to help as many as possible, but it’s not possible to help everyone,” she says, adding that the staff are working round the clock. With anxious senior citizens calling in, she says, they also address mental health, on coping with trauma and grief.

“The elderly in the city are suffering,” says Saumyajit Roy, co-founder, Emoha Elder Care.

With a pan-India presence, Emoha supports elderly people to live well in their homes. The two-year-old Gurgaon-based venture is being baptised by fire in the ongoing pandemic, especially in the severely affected Delhi-NCR region. Equipped to handle the critical care needs of the elderly, Roy says, “every night we save 5-7 lives” through timely intervention.

Roy receives calls from across the country, with Covid-related emergencies. His plea to the elderly and their children is to act early — even when oxygen levels in the blood are 97–98, he says. “Get your elderly under a protective cover, where there is active clinical monitoring,” he pleads, having had to take up requests when oxygen levels drop dramatically.

Emoha’s ‘Triple D’ system (involving a daughter (or son), a virtual daughter and doctor) is assigned to those signed-up with them, and they call on individuals every day to check for their needs and well-being, “almost like a daughter”, he says.

When Maharashtra was witnessing a surge, Delhi should have been prepared, he says, adding that smaller cities now need to plan for the virus spread. “It’s a ticking bomb,” he says, as he receives calls from smaller cities.

At Sukino Healthcare, which operates in Bengaluru and Kerala, the effort is to provide “continuum care” at their centres or at individual homes, says its founder, Rajinish Menon. The five-year-old venture supports recuperation, rehabilitation and palliative care. Of late, though, he observes, besides the increase in anxious Covid-related calls, they are seeing young people having difficulties breathing after infection.

It’s been a mixed bag of emotions at Bengaluru’s Kites Senior Care. Founder Rajgopal G recounts an incident where an elderly couple were hand-held to protect themselves, even as the rest of the family was Covid-positive. The elderly, in this case, were not infected, he says, happy that they had beat the odds, being at a higher risk.

Calls to Kites have increased from about 50 to 250 a day, he says. They support the elderly at their three centres (one temporarily closed because it’s close to a Covid care centre), besides home care. “Earlier the calls were for help to get RT-PCR tests done, now it is for guidance from doctors on symptoms or to get an ICU or oxygen,” he says.

He recounts another incident of an elderly couple who were found dehydrated in their home. Their children in the US called up Kites after the parents failed to answer their phone. The couple were found to be Covid-positive and died days apart; Rajgopal took care of the cremation.

“I’ve done many cremations,” he says, but describes this one as heart-wrenching because the couple’s children could have acted earlier to avert the tragedy. The elderly are better in following instructions, he says, urging families to act early to protect their elderly.

PT Jyothi Datta

Published on May 02, 2021

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