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Once upon a time, our elderly were hard working, productive adults. Then, as they aged, society began to place less value on their existence; adding insult to injury, many elderly today often find themselves in the embarrassing position of being dictated to by their children or carers, without any recourse to self determination.
Self determination is the process by which a person controls their own life. In our youth we have this control and tend to underestimate its value. Only as people age and gradually lose their independence do they realize that self determination matters in how they live the remainder of their lives.
Traditionally in India, the joint family structure allowed for elderly family members to be taken care of organically. But, as industrialization, urbanization and migration changed how societies function, the bond that held families of various generations together began to fracture, become fragile or even become non-existent, leading to the rise of a new paradigm- that many families and communities everywhere face today – how do we as a society create a system that allows for our senior citizens to live their lives with dignity, independence and self determination but with the safeguards of physical and financial security? And how do we deal with the issue of depression that creeps in with social isolation and loss of purpose as people grow older?
This is where Archana Sharma of Samvedna Senior Care comes in.
After a long and successful career in the tech world, Archana Sharma started Samvedna in 2013 with the aim of making a discernible difference in the lives of seniors. This was very personal for her because her parents are fiercely independent and wanted to live in their own home, but started to find it difficult to do so without some help. Archana first started with a senior activity center but soon realized that many seniors do not have the mobility to avail of its services. It led to her to create her home service enterprise.
Archana defines her mission as “provid[ing] best in class senior care services for the elderly to help them live happy, active and independent lives, in the comfort of their home and community through interactive caregiving.”
Samvedna’s services are concentrated in the Delhi NCR region and have grown over the years to include elder care services, dementia care and counselling services for geriatric ailments, primarily to fulfill the need for in-place aging.
Elder Care services are companionship-based for seniors who live alone but want to live independently. Trained counsellors and social workers visit regularly and encourage activities based on the seniors’ interests. Home management services are also available for general house maintenance.
Another service called General Wellbeing helps seniors with bank visits, medical appointments, managing hospital stays and other social engagements. This service becomes invaluable when the social worker is able to understand and communicate the technical details of a senior citizen’s medical diagnosis.
Deepak, a Bay Area resident, has been using Samvedna for the past four years and says, “They have professionally educated staff who visit my parents regularly. It gives me peace of mind knowing that my parents are being taken care of, and I get a daily email with an update on their condition.”
Samvedna also provides in- home, long term care . In this case, caregivers often live with the family. The in-home attendants are screened by Samvedna and specially trained in the nuances of senior care with sensitivity, especially in cases of dementia.
Samvedna also provides services to help elderly people diagnosed with dementia, as well as support for their caregivers or family. Its comprehensive service starts with a thorough initial neurological assessment, and specific programs are then recommended to the client based on the results, whether it is cognitive stimulation therapy or social stimulation in a group environment. Each care plan is reviewed and monitored regularly within their team of multidisciplinary specialists.
But as Archana says, “early detection is key,” to diagnosing senior citizens accurately, giving them the right treatment and helping families cope with the disease. Unfortunately, either because of the stigma or a general lack of awareness in India, dementia is often not diagnosed until it has progressed to a moderate or advanced stage. Samvedna also has a support group for caregivers, which is invaluable because caregivers are often lonely, depressed, emotionally drained and physically spent while taking care of their loved ones.
The fact is, extended families of seniors lead busy lives, with demanding jobs and long commutes. This 21st century lifestyle has changed the social dynamic of families, whether they live in India, abroad, or even in the same house. As a society, we need to do a better job of acknowledging this and finding solutions to help our senior citizens live a meaningful and dignified life.
Entrepreneurs like Archana Sharma and Samvedna are doing just that.
More information and details of the services that Samvedna provides can be found at https://www.samvednacare.com/
Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.
Edited by Meera Kymal