BENGALURU: The coronavirus pandemic and the recent spike in cases in Bengaluru has left everyone worried. Especially concerned are elderly citizens and their carers. The situation has forced senior living centres and care homes to take added measures to ensure physical as well as mental wellbeing of their residents. The foremost is securing their inmates from outside contact. SN Praveen, the founder and CEO of Priaashraya Assisted Living Homes, which manages the 65 residents of Rotary Orchards Chaitanya Senior Citizens Home, says family members have been told to refrain from visiting for sometime. “Some seniors have hearing or visual impairments, which means people have to get close to them to interact with them. Family members were cooperative and agreed to keep in touch via online modes,” says Praveen.
Agrees Adarsh Narahari, managing director, Primus Lifespaces, who adds that they also held webinars on how senior citizens could use Skype and Zoom to stay in touch with family. The old-age homes are also modifying the meals to include more Vitamin C and immunity boosting ingredients. Primus has also reduced the number of chairs in the dining area from six to two per table. “We also introduced timing slots to ensure social distancing during meal times,” says Narahari, adding that common areas are sanitised every two hours.
Group activities have, however, continued as usual since they are an essential part of maintaining the mental health of senior citizens. Narahari says the activities were shifted to the outdoors. “We conduct antakshiri and tombola sessions as usual, but ensure smaller groups. We also added entertainment webinars that can be enjoyed from their indoor apartments,” he says. At Priaashraya too, birthdays, festivals and other occasions are celebrated as normal. “We didn’t want to disrupt the way of life,” says Praveen, adding that body vitals like heart rate and oxygen levels are checked daily.
While residents have been understanding of the situation, the team at Nightingales Medical Trust (NMT) has faced challenges of a different sort. With patients with dementia at three centres, Dr Radha S Murthy, managing trustee, says senior citizens, especially those with moderate dementia, find it difficult to process the current situation. “We don’t even let them wear the mask because they tend to fidget with it, or don’t understand that they can lower it slightly if it causes breathing difficulties. Sometimes, they can’t recognise the carers if they wear a mask and communication can be tough,” she says, adding that they are, however, getting used to it. For the members at NMT’s dementia day-care centres, they have rolled out sessions with physical and cognitive exercises on Zoom.
Silver Talkies, a social engagement platform for senior citizens, has also started online educational and entertaining sessions for the elderly living alone. So far, sessions have included talks with experts about ways to not feel lonely and immunity boosting diets, along with fun theatre sessions. “We also plan to introduce a volunteer initiative where youngsters can sign up to be phone buddies, and also volunteering initiatives which seniors can be a part of from their homes so that they have a sense of well being,” says co-founder Nidhi Chawla.
Senior living centres are getting an increased number of calls for new admissions. At NMT, Murthy says they’ve had about eight new patients in a month, since family members are finding it tough to look after their aged loved ones. They have set up an observation ward for new patients, where they are kept for 14 days to check for symptoms. If a Covid test has been carried out, the patient stays there till the test comes negative. Priaashraya too has stepped up their admission guidelines. Says Praveen, “There is a huge need for our services now and it would be unfair to refuse people.” Besides routine tests, they also seek a pulmonologist’s opinion, Covid test and vaccination for pneumonia and influenza.