Prior to the pandemic, Ashiana Orphanage and Old Age Home, a home for abandoned elderly citizens in Kannamangala Palya, a small village near Devanahalli, used to see a stream of visitors. Good Samaritans would visit the elderly there and interact with them. Donations and subsidised and free supplies kept the hearth burning.
Now, this old age home, with its 48 residents hardly sees any visitors. That means no donations as well. Lack of resources has left this home struggling to serve their elderly who have been abandoned by their families.
“We are facing a shortage of funds to run the place,” said Mohammed Farooq, the founder of Ashiana Orphanage and Old Age Home. “We are running the place by taking loans now. People have stopped visiting us and there are no donations or supplies coming in. We need funds for food, medical treatment, to pay electricity bills, and for maintenance,” he said
This is not a singular case, he said. Many old age homes are facing a similar situation.
Ananda’s Seva Sadan, located close to BEML Layout, R R Nagar, is home to senior citizens aged between 70 and 97 years old. Their case is no different either.
“Many of the guardians of our inmates have lost their jobs and are unable to make payments. As a result, we are facing financial difficulties and finding it difficult to run the place,” Ananda’s Seva Sadan founder Manjunatha Rao said.
During the lockdown, the problems were manifold. The staff could not come because of the lack of transport facilities. The vegetables had to be sun-dried before cooking, utensils washed and food cooked. In the absence of staff, it was difficult, he said.
“Even now, we have difficulties shifting patients to hospitals. Hence, we have a set up a small critical care unit and doctors are coming from outside. Besides, the inmates also faced a lot of mental issues because they couldn’t meet their guardians during the lockdown,” Rao said.
Farooq gets around 20 to 50 calls every day from across Karnataka from people who find abandoned senior citizens on the road. These homeless elderly are brought to Ashiana, either by the police or those who find them.
“We recently we got a call from Gulbarga, wherein a son had thrown out his father to the streets,” said Farooq.
Cynthia Cunliffe, founder and chairman of Ashley Care Homes in Kothanur and Horamavu, elaborated the kind of hurdles they have been trying to cross. “We have issues in taking care of the elderly with the pandemic still on,” she said. “We need to make sure no one gets infected with the coronavirus and since they are so fragile with low immunity, it’s important that we give more attention to them. We had a terrible time during the lockdown with fewer supplies. Now, it’s better,” said Cynthia. “But we have heavy rents to pay and staffing is also expensive these days.”
The pandemic, the isolation, and medical concerns have made the sunset years tough to navigate for the geriatric population. Empathy from society is not always abundant.
Covid-19 has clearly cast a shadow on their day-to-day lives.
“The lockdown period was a big question mark for the elderly as no one was allowed to visit them, and they could not go out. They were disturbed but we were helping them with video calls and messages. My Horamavu branch is more for the bedridden, so not many can move out. Their loved ones were not able to visit them,” Cynthia said.
The mental health of the elderly has also seen a downside ever since the pandemic broke out and getting treated is easier said than done. “We have people with depression and dementia. But some of the doctors have raised their fees and we can’t afford them,” Farooq said.
Cynthia feels the society needs more awareness to focus their attention on elderly homes “because we are going to face many people in the senior citizen’s category.” “Even now, some banks don’t understand the pain the elderly face while going to get their life certificate. They don’t oblige in coming and taking their signatures,” she said.
The irony is that even as the vaccine is all set to roll out, getting basic medical help is a huge challenge for Ashiana. “There is no medical store in the entire village,” said Farooq. “We have to go to either Devanahalli or Yelahanka. After the coronavirus broke out, no doctors have been visiting us. They also have families and have to be cautious. We cannot afford private hospitals and a government hospital recently took three to four hours to get a patient admitted,” he said.