Old age in India is looked upon as a time meant for quiet contemplation, remembering the almighty and spending time harmlessly pottering around with ones grandchildren. While this idyll exists for some, the sad reality is that old age often means deteriorating health and illnesses. As one grows older the mind loses its agility, the body loses its vigour and diseases set in.
With nuclear families and double incomes being the norm in urban India, children caring for their parents find the going tough. It is not that they do not wish to look after the elderly, the problem is that juggling careers, children and parents needing constant medical attention becomes a difficult task. The situation gets further compounded if the elderly require constant medical attention.
Home care hardly exists in India. Even in a city like Delhi, getting adequate nursing care at home is next to impossible. While a handful of nursing services exist, their services are unreliable and offer dubious quality of care. These centres do not employ nurses trained in geriatric care, most of them are rejects from big hospitals and land up in these places because no one else is willing to hire them. Trusting, them to look after the elderly at home is a huge risk.
Old age homes too are hard to find. A quick look up on Google threw up just 5 centres in Delhi, most run by NGO’s as not for profit centres. These homes too are more in the nature of shelters for the aged and are not equipped with round the clock medical care. If this is the state of affairs Delhi, one can easily assume the situation to be a lot worse elsewhere in the country.
To my mind this is a significant business opportunity, which can only grow.
Specialised Geriatric Care centres, will provide comprehensive care to the elderly. This would include day care as well as residential care centres. These centres need not be hospitals in the strictest sense of the word but specialised care centres equipped to take care of the day-to-day medical needs of the aged. Unlike hospitals these centres will not be only for those who are sick with a debilitating or terminal illness but for all those who need assisted living. Thus these centres will offer continuous care both in terms of managing day-to-day chores as well as state of the art medical care.
These centres can also run home care services for the elderly. They can provide trained people to look after the aged at their homes, particularly when the children are at work or traveling on business. This can work well for folks, who have family around them and would like to spend their remaining days at home with them. It would also take away the feeling of guilt that most children, unable to take adequate care of their elderly parents, suffer from.
A business model can be developed along these service lines and may include monthly charges for the stay in the centre and using its facilities and separate charges for medical interventions as and when needed. While these centres should be ‘for profit’, one has to handle the business sensitively. Compassion, kindness and a missionary sense of doing good must be critical business drivers along with profits.
I am of the view that these aims can be easily balanced and a ‘for profit’ organisation with compassion and kindness at its heart can be built and sustained.