Epoch Eldercare – for the silver years

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Care services for the elderly in India are seeing a breath of fresh air with innovative ideas and approaches. We speak to Epoch Eldercare that offers services spanning health and companionship.

Art at Epoch Eldercare

India is graying, says a Help Age India report, with 100 million people over 60 years of age and life expectancy at 63. With rapid urbanization and breakdown of the joint family system, old age can sometimes be garbed in loneliness, which in turn can accelerate the onset of age-related ailments.

However, the silver lining is that this loneliness can be prevented through an active social life, jogging of mind and renewed social contacts. This is where Epoch Eldercare, a professional at-home care provider for elders, based in Gurgaon near Delhi, steps in.

Launched in January 2012, Epoch Eldercare offers elders intellectual companionship, health monitoring and Alzheimer’s/ Dementia care in the comfort of their own homes. Nidhi Chawla spoke to Ruchi Kumar, Vice President Sales and Marketing and Neha Sinha, Elder Care Manager at Epoch Eldercare to get you more details.

What does Epoch mean and why the name?

Epoch means the beginning of a new era. Old age is the start of a new era, hence the name.

What was the genesis of Epoch Eldercare?

The idea of Epoch germinated when Kabir Chadha, the Founder and CEO of Epoch Eldercare and an ex-Mckinsey consultant, started living with his grandmother and realized the issues associated with old age. Old age is characterized by loneliness and a huge gap exists between the family caregiver and the untrained domestic help. Epoch was launched with an aim to address these issues and fill this gap.

You're never too old to colour your nails!

When and how was it launched?

The concept of Epoch was put on the ‘drawing board’ in September 2011 and we launched our services in January 2012, in Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida and Faridabad. So far, we have primarily worked through references and referrals and word of mouth. Today, we have 21 clients in Delhi and NCR.

 

What are the main issues associated with the elderly segment?

The main issues associated with the elderly population are –

  1. India has the second largest population of elderly people
  2. The elderly in India are not very open to moving to retirement communities, unlike in the West, as it is considered socially unacceptable
  3. There is a lack of professional help. A large gap exists between the family caregiver and the untrained domestic help.
  4. Elderly primarily suffer from loneliness and lack of companionship

What is Epoch Eldercare’s role and what services does it provide?

Our aim is two-fold 1) to raise the quality of life for our elders and 2) to provide non-medical support, in the form of a surrogate son or daughter. Our services rest on three pillars :

Intellectual Companionship– We try to be a companion or a friend to the elderly by visiting them regularly at their homes, typically thrice a week for an hour each. During this one hour, we spend quality time with them and engage them intellectually in discussions, help them pursue their passions or other interesting activities. These activities range from helping them write a cooking blog/ book to making a photo collage or family tree for their grandchildren and playing games. We also accompany them on outings or social visits. Our focus is making their life easy by helping them overcome their disabilities etc. For example we may label things in big alphabets for people with vision impairment or help them organize their medicines for easy remembrance.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care – We also attend to elders with neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Since they have a short attention span we do things which will catch their attention like listen to music, watch snippets of their favourite movies, colouring etc. Our aim is also to provide respite to the caregivers and train and sensitize the attendants.

Health Monitoring–We help ensure well-being of the elderly and monitor their vitals like blood pressure, sugar levels, pulse rate etc. We help them manage their medication and also check that they are maintaining their personal hygiene. If need be, we also accompany them on hospital visits and give them access to elder care products. We also facilitate at-home elder care needs by helping with placement of maids and nurses etc., and by referring doctors.

A musical evening

We are now a ten member team, of which five are Elder Care Specialists (ECS) and five are part of the management team. Our Elder Care Specialists (ECS) have Master’s degree in the fields of psychology, social work and gerontology. They are selected for both their hard and soft skills – they have the patience, empathy, integrity and creativity to truly increase the quality of life of their elderly clients. Candidates have to undergo a rigorous selection process, conducted by our expert panel,which have considerable experience working with the elderly in various walks of life.

What kind of training do the ECS have to undergo before they are ready to work with the elderly?

Training is imparted both in-house and by our partners. All ECS members attend Basic Life Support training, in association with Max Hospital. They also deal with elderly people in a simulated environment before they interact with our clients. In partnership with Help Age India, Delhi University and other experts, Epoch Elder Care provides a rigorous training and monitoring program for its ECS team.

Any specific training to deal with and take care of Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients?

The Geriatric doctor on our panel helps the ECS understand the biological aspect of the ailment, specifically the changes it can bring about, how to diagnose the problem and also the basics of treatment. The team Psychologist helps design the activities that will engage them and take care of their short attention span. Mostly the activities entail giving one stimulus at a time as multiple stimuli can be stressful for them. For example – it could be a mute video or only music.

The caregivers also undergo one day training in association with Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI).

Any example of how your effort has helped a patient?

One of our clients, aged 80 years, used to be always confused and would talk to herself, before she met us. We helped diagnose the problem and figured that she suffers from dementia of grey matter. Once we started visiting her we figured that she is very fond of cooking and it has been her lifelong passion. So we helped her start a food blog, with one recipe a week. The blog is read and commented upon regularly by her children and grandchildren. We read out these comments to her verbatim and this activity keeps her grounded and close to reality. The knowledge of the fact that we will visit her on Monday, Wednesday and Friday keeps her oriented and calmer. She now introduces the ECS to others as her friend

What is the typical profile of your clients?

It is a 50:50 split between NRI and Resident Indian clients. Mostly it is the children who sign up for our services for their parents/ grandparents. Usually elders are closed to the idea of engaging an outsider’s help, while the adult child is keener on making life comfortable for them.

How has been the experience so far?

So far the journey has been exciting and gratifying. Response from our clients, both the elderly and adult children has been very encouraging. To hear a “God bless you” from an elder makes us realise we have managed to touch some lives. Decent media coverage and word of mouth publicity has helped us get the much needed mileage.

Art Party organized by Epoch Eldercare

The biggest challenge has been putting our elderly clientele at ease, since they are usually not very receptive initially. During the first meeting, the ECS spends time with the elderly client, trying to establish a rapport. Once done, there is no looking back. On the days the ECS is not visiting in person, they speak to the elders over phone to keep the relationship going. Over time the relationship is strengthened enough to receive calls from the elderly clients, whenever they are in need or just want to talk.

What kind of checks and balances are in place?

The Elder Care Manager (ECM) visits clients once in 7-10 days to ensure high quality of services being delivered by ECS. The ECS is also required to submit session reports at the end of every visit and also a plan for the next session, both for internal monitoring and also as regular updates to adult children of the elderly client.

What happens in case of medical emergencies?

We are a non-medical service and do not provide any medical interventions or clinical therapies. In case of medical emergencies, we inform the adult children and assist till help arrives. An emergency response sheet is created at the beginning of any relationship whereby we record the name of the doctor, hospital etc., along with emergency contact numbers and also a brief medical history of the elderly client.

What are the social events all about and how often are they organized?

Social events are organized typically once a month, primarily to up the entertainment factor in the lives of the elderly. In the past, we have organized a fashion show where the elderly walked the ramp, chaperoned by two youngsters; a Dev Anand music night, a makeover party for the women folk and an Art party where they dabbled with paints and canvases.

The events have been a huge hit with the elderly folk. There have been instances of the elderly going back and humming the Dev Anand tunes for days after the event.

How much does it cost to enroll for these services?

All our services are personalised and customised as per the needs of a client. A typical 3 month package where the ECS visits a home thrice a week and spends an hour at each visit will cost about Rs. 11, 000 per month. Six times a week for an hour daily will cost about Rs.22, 000 per month.

What are future plans for Epoch Eldercare?

For now we want to concentrate and establish ourselves in Delhi and NCR. We have just launched in Bangalore and plan to expand to other cities at a later date.

For more details, contact Epoch Eldercare on 0124-426 2561 or visit their website http://www.epocheldercare.com

 

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