New Delhi, Aug 9 : Shrinking family sizes, lack of awareness about age-related conditions and availability of specialised care homes for the elderly are some of the reasons why families in India are opting to go for assisted living for their senior members.

Neha Sinha, a trained psychologist and dementia expert, co-founded Epoch Elder Care, which runs three homes for the elderly in Gurugram and Pune, informed by years of her practice in psychology. "Over the years, I have learnt that elders need holistic care (emotional, cognitive, social and physical) focusing on every aspect of their lives instead of just focusing on their healthcare needs. At Epoch Elder Care, one of our focus areas is on providing specialised care for elders with neurological conditions like dementia and Parkinson's disease," she told IANSlife in an interview.

Changing family lives With a focus on the person as much as the clinical condition, personalised care in a home-like environment can help elders lead meaningful lives. In a country like India, where Sinha says the culture largely is to look after your own parents till the very end, availing professional services for elder care is still wrapped in stigma.

"In earlier times when joint families existed, the presence of seniors in the household was considered a blessing and the responsibility was shared equally between all family members. Also, life expectancy was shorter and therefore one wasn't dealing with chronic conditions for decades. With more and more nuclear families becoming the norm, families are struggling to care for their elders even if they have access to all resources," said the Epoch Elder Care CEO and Co-Founder.

Adding, "Also, due to lack of awareness about neurological disorders associated with ageing, families of the elders tend to react differently, even though they may have the best of intentions. Many times, family members are confused about how to deal with the situation. They are embarrassed, and find it uncomfortable speaking about their elderly parents publicly and seeking help for the same, especially if they have conditions such as dementia. Stigmatisation of availing professional services leads to lack of proper care and thereby, at times, may be neglect of the elderly." Sinha believes, what does not help is the elder care services industry in India still being in its nascent stage. "Looking after seniors is still considered as an individual responsibility and not that of the community or the government. Stigma associated with availing elder care services or seeking external help to look after one's parent has been a key barrier to engage professional care, and has significant negative impact on the health and well-being of elders and their caregivers." She said that many people normalise chronic conditions like dementia and Parkinson's as a part of ageing.

Assisted living for elders According to Sinha, assisted living homes and services are required when elders are no longer able to function or lead their lives independently either due to age related issues or because they need specialised care because of a medical condition. The homes are equipped to ensure that all aspects of ageing are taken care of keeping the current medical condition in mind.

Whether it is early identification of a disease condition, a life threatening situation, a fall, assistance in daily activities such as bathing, eating etc. or social engagement- an elderly's care plan will have focus areas on each aspect.

Epoch, which runs the Frida, Vermeer and and Monet houses - named after the most influential artists of all times, says this is because the homes are thoughtfully designed to add colour to the life of an elderly who come stay with them and make this stage of life as lively and fulfilling as possible.

Asked how are elders at Epoch coping with social distancing norms and these lonely times, Sinha mentions an increase in video calls with families, no outdoor activities but plenty indoor ones, and care staff staying at homes to avoid exposure. Epoch plans to expand in northern India in the coming months and next year and continue to focus on specialised care for seniors.

(IANSlife can be contacted at ianslife@ians.in)

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