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Expert 'friends' a silver lining for the aged

Monday, 20 May 2013 - 11:08am IST | Place: Pune | Agency: DNA
Specialists offer non-medical elder care services for parents staying alone.

Wanawadi resident Sushma Nagrajan (name changed) looks forward to the bi-weekly visit of her new found ‘best friend’, 28-year-old Yukti Juneja.

The 80-year-old bundle of energy often discusses movies, exchanges Bollywood gossip, plays board games and wants to get a ‘handle’ on new technology with a little help from the friend. But Juneja isn’t the friendly next-door girl.

Instead, the MBA in healthcare management works as a professional ‘elder care specialist’. She gets paid by the hour by Nagrajan’s daughter who lives in Kolkata for offering companionship to the elderly yet independent lady.

Juneja is the Pune manager of Gurgaon-based company, Epoch Elder Care, which is offering elder care services for the last four months in Pune.

“Her son works abroad and daughter lives in Kolkata, so they wanted someone to go and spend time with their mom. After we got hired, we spent time with her to know her likes, dislikes, hobbies and interests and then prepared a companionship plan for her. She doesn’t need dependence as she is so active, she hasn’t even hired a maid for housework. But what we do is talk, gossip, play games and sometimes help her with odd jobs. Like last week, we helped her get the gas connection transferred in her name from her deceased husband’s name,” said Juneja.

Natrajan is not alone. An increasing number of elderly people in the city are hiring the services of elder care specialists for reasons ranging from companionship to health monitoring besides Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

Epoch Elder Care founder and chief executive officer Kabir Chadha said that the non-medical service focuses on keeping elders intellectually engaged. The company says their elder care specialists are trained in providing stimulating companionship that includes having “meaningful” conversations, accompanying the elderly to events and outings, reading and discussing current events, books, experiences and memories.

Elder care specialists also offer health monitoring services and Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Take 75-year-old Renu Sanyal (name changed) for example, who is suffering from dementia related to

Alzheimer’s. Her Dubai-based son hired elder care specialists to look after his
parents.

“In this case, while we have sessions with her, which help to stimulate her memory, during that one hour, her husband gets to relax. Dementia patients are completely dependent on their primary care givers who get respite during our sessions,” added Juneja.

While these services come at a cost which could be anything between Rs11,000 to Rs16,500 or more per month depending on the service or hours per week required, a Pune entrepreneur had attempted a similar service albeit free.

Settled in UK, now Manjiri Gokhale Joshi started elder care services at MayaCARE a couple of years ago. The website says it provides companionship services to elderly people in the city free of cost such as accompanying senior citizens during their visits to the doctor or when they go out to attend some function, reading to them, writing letters for them, assisting in computer-related work, bank transactions or applying for a gas connection. The volunteers are not professionals but could be students, housewives or retired professionals who get paid for their travel by the NGO.

“Though we aren’t as active today, we still have a list of volunteers and continue to provide services whenever we receive a call. We don’t do this for money, but because we know it could get lonely sometimes,” said Dr Vidya Gokhale, Manjiri’s mother who looks after the NGO’s affairs now.




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