Home away from home for the seniors

The senior citizens sitting along with Dr Aparna Deshmukh at the Abhalmaya old age home

“What is it that changes the behaviour of children towards their parents once they get older? Why do they turn against their aging parents?” questions Dr Aparna Deshmukh, the founder of Abhalmaya, a Sinhagad Road-based old age home that provides care for senior citizens.

The building of the old age home is surrounded by a façade and the windows are blocked with wooden cupboards which don’t allow outsiders any view into the home. “The elders need their privacy. Some of them suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia. There are times when they forget to wear their clothes or they start screaming because they are senile. We have received several complaints from neighbors and sometimes they go so far and lodge a complaint with the corporation,” explains Deshmukh as some of the elderly are physically and mentally challenged.

Dr Aparna Deshmukh
Dr Aparna Deshmukh

The 32-year-old was working at an old age home as a doctor several years back and realized the poor state of care and facilities that is given to elderly people, “I operated on an old lady who was bedridden. The person who was responsible for her care didn’t know how to feed her water or food so it all seeped from her mouth on to her face. One side of her face was covered in sores from that. This really affected me and I realized that there is so much that I want to do for such people.” Deshmukh was determined to start an old age home, and did so in 2010, despite the reluctance from her parents, “They wanted me to get married but I have dedicated my life to serving elderly people. It has taken time for my parents to understand this.”

When it comes to senior care, homes like Abhalmaya is just one of the many options that the elderly can consider when they may be required to have around the clock care. For some, moving into care homes will mean the end of their independence and many don’t like the idea of this and may want to look for services similar to the ones that you can find at Www.careforfamily.com.au/ to help them to stay in their own homes for longer. However, this could all depend on the levels of care they need but having another option could do them the world of good as they enter the latter stages of their lives. For example, if your parents aren’t able to cook for themselves anymore, senior care services may be a better option for them. However, if they struggle to get out of bed or go to the toilet, a care home may be favorable. Care homes do seem to be the more popular choice though.

An evening at the old age home will see the elderly gather round at the veranda to watch something on the television, quietly read the local papers or jointly recite a prayer and even hear the melodious voice of an elderly person singing a spiritual hymn. “Some of them sing really well,” remarks Deshmukh as she narrates stories of how several of them got here after being left by their children. “There are times when people give false addresses so we are unable to contact them in case of any emergency or even for the monthly payment. We were asked to pick up an old man from the road because his son was unable to care for him. The old man used to scream a lot and the other old age homes refused to take him in so the son in all his frustration just left him on the road. There was a senior citizen with us and we had to get his cataract operation done, the money was ready but his son wasn’t coming to Pune to take him to the hospital. I couldn’t take a chance so I got the operation done. Later on, the son came and shouted at me for doing this without him. But, his father thanked me for making him see the world again! Now, since his sight is in place, he helps me out and even handles the accounts of the old age home.” She has been looking into wetrooms for the disabled by AHM installations as this would ideally be the next investment she’d like to make to help her residents, but it’s going to require some further saving or donations before it can go forward.

For Deshmukh, her biggest achievement is that all the elders call her ‘Aai’ or address her as their daughter for the maturity in care that she provides for them. “I have made some really special memories with the people who are here. I am very attached to them and this does take a toll on my personal life as well,” she adds. As much as a job like this can be challenging, Deshmukh seems to find her elderly care career very rewarding. An Aged care career can be one that is very positive due to the close bonds that are formed on the job, and with a growing aging population, the demand for more elderly care workers is increasing.

Apart from running the old age home and juggling legal paperwork as well as handling the cremation rites of the elderly, Deshmukh also works as a surgeon. She is determined to serve the elderly all her life even though the expenses of maintaining such a home run steep, “Once a person makes up their mind to do something then I believe that they can do it. It is not about the money; it is about the time and care that we need to provide for the elderly.”

Vijayta Lalwani

Vijayta Lalwani

The young lady from Lagos has always been keen on a career in journalism. Pune365 was hence the right stop. We agree. vijayta@pune365.com
Vijayta Lalwani