A large portion of elderly people (defined by the World Health Organisation as 65 years old and above) in Bangladesh who are aged below 75 years are still capable of leading healthy and independent lives, as long as they are not already subject to any serious physical or mental illness. Many from the current older generation were once decorated leaders of this nation and led several important institutions as well. Considering that, sometimes they may hesitate to mention their need for assistance, even to their family members. This is when their loved ones need to take a step forward and understand geriatric care better to help their beloved elderly at home.
Nausheen Nafeez, who is working as the Coordinator of Home Care at SAJIDA Foundation, points out the specific signs to look out for to figure out when an elderly person needs help. Generally, the elderly have a daily pattern or regime that they develop over the years through regular habits and experience. These everyday activities are termed as ADLs or Activities of Daily Living. “If there is any sudden slowdown, disruption or deviation in their daily activities, we need to immediately get to its root,” Nafeez said. For instance, they may not be waking up at their usual time or waiting for someone to help them get up. “Before the diagnosis of any diseases or any clear outcry for help, these are the nonverbal signs that we have to pick up and understand that it is time to get them the help and care that they need,” she explained.
Home Care Services at
Founded by late Syed Humayun Kabir in 1993 as a silver jubilee present to his dear wife, SAJIDA Foundation has been working relentlessly in various fields such as physical and mental health, microfinance, WASH, programmes for the extreme poor and so on. It has been a paragon of corporate philanthropy and in recent years, expanded to home care services for the elderly, post-operative patients and those with chronic illnesses, with a dream to ultimately cater to the needs of the elderly community with facility-based services.
Nafeez laid out the details of the service which is segmented into three different levels. “Home care basically involves providing caregivers of different skill levels depending on the client's/family's needs,” she began. For instance, some clients just need help with daily activities like bathing, feeding, taking medication, etc. This falls under level 1. In level 2, proficient nurses or paramedics are provided to the client to give special services that require a specific skillset. These skilled caregivers have sufficient knowledge on performing certain tasks like tube feeding, catheter use, etc. Level 3 caregivers are exceptionally adept at handling patients who have been hospitalised for some time and are now discharged. The primary focus is to help these patients through their transition from the hospital cabin to their own bedroom and resuming their day to day functions before hospitalisation. Nafeez explained that the level 3 service is not exclusively for the elderly, but for every patient who needs the help after being discharged from hospital. “The assistance provided by level 3 caregivers actually helps the patients recover much faster than the usual process,” she emphasised.
Some elderly people often need rehabilitation, for which they need to engage in physiotherapy. “Unfortunately, people in Bangladesh still do not emphasise on physiotherapy as much as they should,” sighed Nafeez, “But we suggest it to our clients, as the benefits are remarkable and can truly enhance the patient's daily functions,” she added.
Owing to its large pool of competent doctors and consultants at the SAJIDA Hospitals, the organisation can also provide immediate medical attention, equipment and physiotherapists, as per the client's needs.
Getting Started with Home Care
Once you have contacted SAJIDA Foundation through their e-mail or phone number, they will begin their initial process. “We first go to the patients' homes and assess the patient, the kind of care they require and their overall living conditions,” Nafeez elaborated. Sometimes the assessors also advise on how certain elements in the house could be rearranged to make it more comfortable for the elderly.
Besides, ensuring the comfort of the client, SAJIDA Foundation also assures the safety of its caregivers, especially if they are females. The shifts vary starting from 12 to 24 hours and often, the caregivers have to work long hours and night shifts. “We basically try to understand if it is safe and agreeable for both parties and once that is sorted out, they sign an agreement and the caregiving service begins,” Nafeez informed.
The initial idea of the home care service at SAJIDA Foundation was to provide help to low-income communities by drawing from the earnings from serving the high-income group. According to Nafeez, they are still in the planning stage of how exactly they want to help the needy. “Rather than providing them with the services, we want to teach them how to do them so that it is more sustainable,” she justified.
Quality of service and client's comfort are the topmost priority for SAJIDA Foundation. “Besides providing caregivers, we maintain continuous monitoring of the clients and make the services as personalized as possible,” Nafeez affirmed.
The costs are broken down in terms of 12-hour shifts, according to the three levels mentioned previously. For every 12-hour shift, levels 1, 2 and 3 cost Tk 825, Tk 1125 and Tk 1425 respectively.
Elder Care Home
Some elderly people may be living alone while their family members live abroad or away from them. They may be in need of a checkup or simply company from time to time. SAJIDA Foundation is currently working on one such Seniors' Assistive Living project that brings it all under one roof. “We want to build one place for them where they can stay comfortably, socialise and meet their families when they visit,” Nafeez said. Although a facility-based service is in the planning, SAJIDA's approach is not limited to the establishment of a building only. Through years of experience, SAJIDA recognizes the existing limitations in the country, primarily the crisis of trained and specialised health workers, which makes care for the chronically ill and elderly all the more difficult. Thus, SAJIDA's long-term focus is to also create a skilled health work force, which will have the capacity to provide quality services with the vision of providing both community-based and facility-based care for the elderly and the chronically ill population in the future.
SAJIDA's future vision also includes the provision of specialised care for children with additional needs as well as patients with dementia and other mental health related needs.
The concept of home and geriatric care is yet to gain the recognition it deserves in our country but organizations like SAJIDA Foundation see its potential through the numerous obstacles. Although it is a difficult project to start off with, it is immensely needed globally and locally, especially as more and more elderly people have been benefitted through the care they received.
For more information on SAJIDA's Home Care Services, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy: SAJIDA Foundation