Demand for nurses on rise as families, with elderly to care for, go on vacation



 CHENNAI: Unlike other patients in the hospital ward, K Ramani, 83, had no tubes running across his body or saline solutions attached to him. An attendant would give him his meals and medicines thrice a day and accompany him on his evening walks. Sometimes, a curious fellow ward-mate would ask details of his ailment.


“I tell them the truth: My family is on a holiday and they admitted me here because I’m too old to travel,” says Ramani, a retired schoolteacher who lives with his son and his family in Kilpauk.


While Ramani’s family goes on a vacation every year, 44-year-old home-maker Vimala will be going on a holiday next week, for the first ti me in a decade, leaving her mother in the care of a homenurse. “I feel guilty , but we all need a break,” says Vimala whose 87-year-old mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago. “She had mobility issues from very early on, and travelling wasn’t easy . It was hard on her and us,” says Vimala. City nursing homes report a spike in calls from people looking for care-givers for their elderly kin as they plan holidays. Some ask for nurses who can take care of them at home, others for short-term stay overs for the elderly.


R Muthukrishnan, senior manager at HelpAge India, says the organisation recei ves at least two calls a day in the summer and wedding season asking for referrals for short-term stay .


“Sometimes caregivers need time off to relax too or take care of other responsibilities. This can’t happen if there’s an elderly person at home, especially if they have mobility issues or dementia or Alzheimer’s,” says Muthukrishnan. While the city has facilities for long-term stay for the elderly, there are only a few that cater to those seeking short-term stay .


Recognising this need, Krishna Kavya, co-founder of Front-Enders Healthcare, started a service for the elderly three years ago where trained attendants are sent to their clients’ homes. “Some require medical attention, but many don’t. They either have high BP or vision and hearing problems, or diabetes, or ortho-related issues like knee pain,” says Kavya, who is currently catering to 50 families, 30 of them for a short duration of 4-5 days. “We have people who have suffered from stroke earlier but are fine now. Their families still prefer having someone around to take care of them in case of emergency,” she says.

 It isn’t just the physical part, families are also worried about their safety . “Appointing home nurses for shortterm care is still rare because of the cost and security reasons,” says geriatric physician Dr V S Natarajan, who gets requests from hapless families. “I don’t know where to refer them to. We have very few facilities for short-term stays. They are even more reluctant to take them if the person suffers from a condition,” says Dr Natarajan.

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