KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Ageing affects individuals in various ways.
For many, mobility starts to become an uphill challenge due to the loss of strength in bones and muscles, vision starts to fade out, memory slowly begins to deteriorate, and the list goes on.
Even one of such issues is enough to make caring for elderly parents a physically — and emotionally — straining task, especially for working adults.
Recognising the need for a comprehensive licensed elderly care centre, three doctors from public health backgrounds teamed up to establish a centre for seniors who require quality care.
The centre, called Rejuvenate Elderly Care Centre in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, was set up to offer various services to fulfil the elderly’s emotional, social and physical needs.
It was founded by four friends namely; Dr Siva Kumar Kumarasamy, Dr Mahendraganesh Maraiah, Dr Balachendren Kailasan and Omar Sheriff.
Despite offering medical care for senior citizens, Dr Siva said dispelling the misconceptions surrounding elderly care centres remains one of the main challenges.
“It used to be a taboo to send your parents to elderly care.
“But now I think people are becoming more open to having someone to constantly care for the parents.”
According to Dr Siva, culturally many people may label those who send their parents to elderly care as being irresponsible or careless.
He, however, said it is important to create awareness about why licensed care centres can be beneficial to the elderly, especially with the rising ageing population in Malaysia.
“These centres are designed to look after the elderly’s basic and medical needs round the clock.
“There are also other residents with similar health conditions so that they don’t feel left out or alone.”
According to him, being in the company of people who are mentally and physically the same, helps the elderly to be more engaging.
“For example, here we engage them in various games or exercises as part of their daily activity.
“It automatically creates a competition among them and they often enjoy it.”
Dr Siva said elderly care is a comprehensive task and it requires various services to ensure all the elderly’s needs are addressed properly.
“We can have one division or faculty to handle everything.
“That’s the reason we have divided our centre into various divisions namely; medical care, mental care, physiotherapy and basic caregiving needs to assist the residents in their daily activities.”
Dr Siva said usually when a new resident is sent to the centre they run a pre-admission assessment to have a better understanding of the patient’s physiology, mental health and overall medical needs to tailor a customised care plan.
Importance of mental care
While many people often prioritise the physical and basic medical needs of their elderly parents, Dr Mahendraganesh said mental care for seniors can’t be neglected.
To address the residents’ psychological needs, he said the centre has partnered with a mental health consultancy to look after the elderly’s emotional wellbeing.
“We have many cases where the single child can’t look after the parent due to work and that leads to depression.
“There is one resident here who refused to talk to us for a week after the child sent him here.”
Following several counselling sessions, Dr Mahendraganesh said the resident managed to come to self-realisation and is now very engaging.
“He has accepted the reality that the son needs to go to work while he also needs proper medical care due to his conditions.”
According to Dr Siva, some elderly with health conditions may become too dependent until the family decides they can’t take it anymore.
“The love and the kindness suddenly convert into anger, irritation and regret.
“This becomes very challenging for the elderly to live that way. Hence, most of them who come here go through a period of depression, anxiety and feeling unworthy.”
To ensure family values are maintained, Dr Siva said the centre has come out with family visitation rosters, guidelines and protocols to follow.
“We don’t encourage anyone to just send their elderly parents here and just for the sake of having a place to live.
“We have specific programmes throughout the day and we also keep the children informed about their parent’s progress.”
Three friends joined hands to set up a licensed elderly care centre with a focus on customised medical care for senior citizens.— Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Doctors with sympathetic hearts
Despite having to bear high operating costs for the centre, Dr Siva said they try not to be too strict when it comes to admission fees and often go on a case-by-case basis.
“We have a resident who has lost both his legs and can’t afford to pay the actual amount, so we only charge him half the fee.
“It’s not cheap to run the centre but we treat it as a charity.”
Dr Siva said they do not look at it as a business but rather as a worthy cause to contribute to the community.
“We feel it was needful to have a licensed centre dedicated to elderly care.
“I feel we have an advantage in managing the centre due to our medical background as medical, physical and emotional assessments on a constant basis will be pertinent to the wellbeing of the elderly.”
Dr Mahendraganesh said they also try to be flexible and even accept walk-ins or those who just require daycare.
“We have a young resident in his 40s who had a stroke and requires daycare.
“So, the wife drops him here in the morning and picks him up in the evening after work.”
The three-storey centre accommodates up to 45 residents and comes with a recreational room, wards and a physiotherapy room.
The team comprises four physiotherapists, two clinical staff and four caregivers.