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Hope for victims of ageing and insecurity

Monday 17, March, 2003 The Vijay Times, Bangalore

Old age is the time when one should sit and enjoy the fruits of life after years of hard work. But alas, it is only hardship which is in store as old age brings along associated diseases and emotional insecurity.

Some are lucky to manage by themselves, but not all are fortunate enough. Many old age homes have cropped up in the city to assist older people. Among many such is Asha Jeevan, which caters to the needs of bed-ridden old people.

The increasing number of working couples has led to neglect of elderly and diseased older people at home. The couples cannot be blamed either, as it is important for them to earn to make a living.

What do you do when old people at home are bedridden and diseased? For Susheelamma's children, it was an awful situation as she was suffering from paralysis and many other disorders. She required utmost care and round-the-clock assistance. So this led her son to shift her to Asha Jeevan, wherein a full-time nurse caters to her needs. Her son visits her often.

This is one of many cases in Asha Jeevan where these senior citizens are taken care of. Sujatha Bhat along with her friend Kalpana Mallya started Asha Jeevan three years ago. Sujatha says, "We started this organization as we felt that there was not enough assistance for the diseased and elderly. Even most of the old age homes do not look after the bed-ridden people. It was then that we decided to open an old age home for the sick".

What started as a small home consisting of one or two people, has now grown into full fledged three homes consisting of 33 people. Kalpana says, "There are about seven nurses for every house. The nurses are trained before handling them and they undergo rigorous training for about a month and half".

The nurses are trained in St. John's Hospital and are then moved to the old age home to look after the sickly. However these nurses have to pay their expenses for the training. Sujatha says, "We even have the facility to send nurses to residences if the concerned person does to wish to join our organization".

Most of the people here suffer from Alzheimer's and schizophrenia. Some of them suffer from epilepsy and asthma as well. For emergency services the organization has its own ambulance, which helps in moving the patients to the hospital. Nurses keep a tab on their health and maintain records of each of them. The doctor who visits them once in 10 days will be able to judge their condition based on these reports.

Kalpana says, "We have a tie-up with one of the hospitals named Shanthi Nursing Home". Timely assistance and medical expertise is what is most appreciated about this organization. The diet of the residents is also looked after depending on their ailments.

Sarojamma, a resident of this organization, had made the hard choice of residing in an old age home long back, as she did not want to trouble anyone. Her son opposed her initially but finally had to agree once she was bedridden. Now she did not regret her decision. She says, "My son and his family visit me often and recently we celebrated my grand daughter's birthday here".

Not many are lucky like Sarojamma as this house also shelters destitutes. Abandoned by her family, Lalithamma, a spinster, leads a lonely life in this organization. Her expenses are met by the organization itself.

Otherwise one has to pay a deposit of Rs 50,000 and a monthly amount of Rs 2750-3750 depending on the condition of their ailment. The money given is used for the treatment and other facilities.

Kalpana and Sujatha say, the expenses are sometimes too high to bear. They do not have assistance from any other organization but they do receive donations from philanthropists.

They even plan to construct a full-fledged building for these people, as the homes are at different locations. They also plan to open an orphanage in the same building and a doorstep service of medical care for the elderly. "Opening an orphanage in the same place will help the elderly people interact with the children, thus creating a bond. All we want is some co-operation and funds to raise this building and meet some of the organisation's demands."

This organization stands as a new ray of hope for the bedridden elderly, for they find solace in this organization.