Changing Demographics and Care giving

Changing demographics and aspirations of younger generation is creating newer challenges in caregiving. Caring Hearts spoke with Mr. Joseph Alex, a pioneer in this field.


Q: Can you share about the status of geriatric care ecosystems currently?
A: During the days we started, existing “old age” homes and retirement homes were for individuals who could manage their own lives and go about with some support. These institutions just did not have the infrastructure or ecosystem to take care of a bedbound individual or someone needing a bit more of nursing assistances. Then an additional home nurse would be requested and attached to the individual. We started with professional medical care services. Now the old age and retirement homes have also begun providing basic medical care/support.


Q: In your opinion, what is the need of the hour so far as old age homes are concerned?
We all need a perspective shift in our outlook to old age homes. There are multiple phases of a post-retirement life. One phase maybe active and independent/partially dependent. The later phase may need deeper support. We all need a shift in perspective about this phase. We all love continuing to keep our loved ones somehow in our homes and any change from the comfort zone, especially when you are already dependent, is not easy. But the fact that quality talent and support systems may not be possible in homes is a reality we must be open to accept. A ”domestic support” or a “home nurse” may not be qualified to take care of all needs, and even frequent hospital visits may come into picture. But a hospice with medical support, ensure quality care, reduces hospital visits and is more practical. With Kerala slowly becoming sorta “old age hub”, this is a pragmatic perspective forward.


Q : It is estimated more than10% of India is above 60 yrs. How good are we?
A: Studies project that by 2031, we may have nearly 30% of India’s population as senior citizens. We also find almost entire youth planning their future abroad. Most of them want to do even graduation abroad and even after that looks for employment and settling down somewhere abroad or at the max in a metro city in India. This exodus will add to a scenario and in less than ten years, every fourth person we meet would be a senior citizen.


Q : Kerala as a state has a lot of NRK and their ageing parents back home. With outflow increasing, how do you see things shaping here?
A : With the exodus of youth, the aged population will find it a bit tough. A generation change occurs every 15-20 years. The current generation who is ageing, values independence highly. They are a set of individuals who has travelled, has experiences, left a legacy at work places, and even has their nest eggs/ pension to fall back on. All these makes them want to be independent sans relying on their children. But at a point most of them needs some kind of an institutional support.


Q: How do you see the future of care giving as a career opportunity, especially in Kerala?
A : The cream of caregivers – qualified and competent ones are finding jobs abroad. Middle East, Europe etc are markets who are attractive caregivers with lucrative returns. It’s a global supply led phenomenon. Shortage of caregivers is already pronounced in most of the developed geographies. People with less than 6 months of experience, but qualified have been able to land impressive jobs in care home abroad. In Kerala, all indicators tell us caregivers will be a shortage. We may never be able to match offers from abroad. Our only available pool might be those who has a relocation/ mobility constraint.


Q: How updated are care givers about assistive technology, assistive devices, dietary and rehab systems?
A : We have a lot of assistive elements opening up focussed at making caregiving easier. Individual home-based facilitation maybe a challenge. An institutional facilitation is pragmatic. Societies like US, Europe etc have seen all these through cycles and matured. Instructions can make this leg of life easier, all needs available and functional.

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