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An oasis of love for 'Grey Eminences'

Sunday, September 16, 2001 The Hindu, Bangalore

Dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's. Just old age. Not everyone has the good fortune of enjoying the twilight years as revered Grey Eminences. As the country's elderly are growing in numbers, the problem of their care and the afflictions of the geriatric are multiplying too.

Ironically, as the needs of the elderly rise by the day, the space and attention are decreasing at an alarming rate. Old age homes and institutional care seem to be the ideal solution for families with the elderly to care for. But in the City, homes that take in the elderly who are chronically ill need constant nursing attention are rare.

In fact, Asha Jeevan, a home for the aged run by Ms. Sujatha Bhat and Ms. Kalpana Mallya, seems to be the solitary exception where 17 of the 27 inmate are those who need nursing round-the-clock.

Mr. Krishnamachar, well-known yesteryear violinist, who also composed music for Kannad films such as Papa Punya, Maleya Makkalu and had one every award and honour worth the name in Karnataka, is a resident. The 86-year-old, who was known under the pen name "Padmacharan" is suffering from dementia. "His family looked everywhere but no one was willing to take him in," Ms. Bhat says.

Another patient is Mr. Upadhyaya from Nagaland, an All India Radio correspondent who has suffered a debilitating stroke and is immobilized. "These people are doing a wonderful job," he said of Ms. Bhat and Ms. Mallya. After coming here, his hopes of a miracle coming his way had risen considerably. He maintained that a rival's "black magic" had reduced him to this state.

In one of the four houses off Bannerghatta Road, where Asha Jeevan has installed its extended family, there is even a schizophrenic whose violent behavior means he has to be confined solitarily.

Ms. Mallya and Ms. Bhat have trained young girls and women from the neighbouring area to nurse and care for their residents. They are mostly from the rural pockets around Bannerghatta, where their families have been working on the farmlands for more than three decades.

At present, the home is run on the income from the fee that the residents' families pay. While Asha Jeevan ensures appropriate medical attention for the patients - they have tied up with Shanti Nursing Home in Jayanagar IV Block - the tab is picked up by the relatives. Asha Jeevan is particular about the families of their inmates being in touch regularly with visits and calls. "We have dealt with many people who are inclined to leave their aged parents here and never look back, but we don't entertain them," Ms. Bhat says.

Their good work has impressed Ms. Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, wife of the Union Minister for Urban Development, Mr. Ananth Kumar. She visited their homes a couple of weeks ago and has promised to see how she could help them. Interested persons can call Asha Jeevan on ph: 6638154 and 6595620.