150 million additional elderly aged 65+, between today and 2030.
This number seems astronomical, but true; and here are some examples of what the scenario is changing to.
Some typical situations with the elderly
An elderly couple and their three daughters and sons in law have been living together for 25 years. The couple have been experiencing all their grandchildren growing up and getting settled. Someone within the family is always available when one of them is in need of anything or ill. They go through each year happy and engaged within themselves and their extending families, their neighbors and every one they meet in society. This elderly couple live with a community of their immediate family and this confidence is extended when they meet anyone in society.
Another elderly couple live on their own. They get support from their caregiver. Their friends help out and the extended family visit them often. They go through life with their children being away, so spend a lot of time within themselves. They have their moments of fun when their children and grandchildren visit them, but that’s not very often. They cope with life through their own companionship and time spent with old friends and visitors. As old friends pass away, they become lonely and sometimes moody.
In a third case, an elderly lady lives all by herself with maids visiting her twice a day for cooking and cleaning. She yearns to see her children and grandchildren but makes do with the company of her neighbors.
In many other cases, parents move cities, along with their children, as they get old. However, many, specially those whose children live in the US or other western countries, prefer to remain back in India and manage on their own. Even within India, the scenario is changing rapidly, with parents refusing to move to the city where the children live.
In the cases where the elderly are living on their own, issues arise when any one of them has a sudden health emergency. Managing the situation, taking the patient to the hospital, waiting for the children to arrive and take over, are some of the typically tense moments we see so often.
Even on normal days, gradually as health and energy deteriorate, the ability to handle daily chores itself is a huge issue.
End of the Joint family era
With jobs and businesses taking people away from homes, the traditional system of joint families is over. As mentioned, parents, as they get older, are not liking to relocate with their children; they prefer, instead, to settle in the city and home where they spent time in their 50s and 60s or where they have their friends or other relatives of similar age.
The children are caught up by circumstances; yet, keep balancing their time between their jobs, their own children and their parents. Some are able to take decisions which enable them manage all commitments conveniently; many others are not able to, for various reasons. The net result is that many spend time shuttling between their new home towns and where their parents are settled.
Till the age of 75 or 80, the parents may be active and able to manage things on their own. But after that the energy levels drop; illnesses take over. Yet, the parents refuse to move closer to their children.
What then is the solution in such cases?
Caregiver Services – a socially relevant business opportunity
The Caregiver services – providing 24×7 support to the elderly, is slowly picking up and will soon become a large industry. There are already a number of caregiver services offered by established entities; and quite a few smaller establishments mushrooming.
In the Western world, the care giver services is an industry as it has evolved over years. It is also backed by government support, as there is a norm that children move out of their homes early and therefore, adults, as they age, end up living on their own and move to old age homes.
In India, since there is no social security, typically individuals fend for themselves or their children take care. Either way, with the break down of the joint family system to nuclear families, the elderly tend to be on their own, barring exceptions mentioned above.
Most elderly prefer to stay in their own homes rather than shift to old age homes, even if available in the same areas.
Professionally managed caregiver services
Given the scope and number of people getting into that bracket and also thanks to life expectancy going up with better healthcare, the need for domestic caregiver services for the elderly will only go up. The key role is that of one efficient person available at home, either 24 hours or part time.
There is a significant opportunity for new, professional organisations to step in and create a business model for caregiver services. While there are a few across the country run professionally, most caregiver services are small proprietorship businesses, that may not be scalable.
Some of the important requirements for a well structured business could be
- A strong value based management culture and a business that’s run as a social enterprise, with strong empathy and care for the client.
- Caregivers who are well trained nurses, male and female, with sufficient experience at hospitals. This ensures that the person has the right knowledge, confidence and the right attitude to manage every situation.
- The business must have the ability to retain these caregivers and have adequate numbers such that each one is given frequent breaks and kept motivated.
- Supervising and Training systems to ensure the caregivers are delivering the right quality of service and are getting frequent knowledge updates.
- In house counsellors to handle psychological issues faced by the caregivers as well as the elderly customers.
- A 24×7 helpline for emergency support to the customer.
- Ambulances and associated staff to move patients to hospitals in an emergency.
- A strong connect with hospitals in the area helps in the caregiver service being a bridge between the patient and the hospital.
Expectations from a Caregiver
Some key behavioral expectations from the caregiver would be –
Patience – A caregiver must possess a lot of patience and understanding while dealing with elders. This could be to the extent of patience needed while dealing with a child.
Empathy – The individual must have the ability to understand and empathise with what the elderly person is going through. It could be emotional, psychological or physical. All of these aspects call for different abilities to relate.
Compassion – A caregiver must be naturally compassionate, kind and have the ability to make the elderly feel comfortable at all times.
Attentiveness – He/She must pay attention to detail, in the environment and the individual he/she is taking care of.
Happiness quotient – An individual who has a happy disposition will spread happiness to the customer too.
Reliability – Punctuality and reliability are critical. He/she must remember at all times that the elderly are depending on them, so absence can cause anxiety to the individual.
Responsibility – A caregiver must feel responsible for the elderly. This will happen if they extend themselves to feel beyond the job.
Trustworthiness – A caregiver will have access to belongings and information of the person they are taking care of. The individual therefore must be trustworthy and respect confidentiality.
In a populous country like India, such organisations can spread happiness to the elderly on one hand, while promoting employment, positive values and attitudes amongst the young.