Savita Narayan profiles an eldercare institution with a scientific temper in Bengaluru
Florence Nightingale would have been amazed at the impact of her work more than 150 years later on the lives of the elderly in Bengaluru.
Dr Radha Murthy, founder of the Nightingales Medical Trust, began her involvement with eldercare when she noticed that several old patients at hospitals had mobility problems and, hence, of reaching healthcare facilities. Nightingales Home Health Services, inspired by the legendary nurse, began by offering the elderly medical assistance at home, ensuring promptness, convenience and eliminating the effort of moving about in a busy metropolis.
Close interaction with patients brought the realisation that eldercare was more than just physical—there were unmet emotional, social and economic needs too. At the Nightingales Elders Enrichment Centre, a venue for social interaction and day-care, elders avail of a library, medical care, counselling on health, fitness programmes and advice on diet and financial planning. Talks by experts, music sessions and get-togethers are organised. Steady Steps is a specialised, scientific, exercise-based fall-prevention programme with a well-qualified team. Its aim is to ensure maximum mobility and fitness without drugs. Dr Murthy says, “In India, by 2050, the number of elders (340 million) and the young are estimated to become equal. In the Indian context, it is essential that we set up family-based eldercare systems which are affordable and acceptable.”
Sandhya Kirana, a joint project with Bengaluru’s municipal corporation, is a free elder day-care centre for the poor. Open every day from 9am to 5pm, it offers economic assistance for activities such as making paper products and plates of areca nut leaves.
The Elders Economic Security Initiative of Nightingales promotes employment opportunities for non-pensioned, low-income senior citizens. With many elders physically fit beyond retirement age and having to cope with a high cost of living, the scheme prepares a database of job-seekers prepared to work a minimum of four hours per day, gives orientation programmes, identifies job opportunities and arranges placements. Computer training is offered in collaboration with the National Institute of Social Defence.
Elders Helpline, in collaboration with the Bengaluru Police and BSNL, alerts the police and offers help when an elder’s telephone is off the hook for 20 seconds. The telephone is identified through the caller ID and the elders’ database. Neighbours registered with the police are alerted. If required, a police team arrives immediately. The service has helped in cases of elder abuse, intrusion into homes and tracing of lost, disoriented elders. Free legal advice and reverse mortgage counselling is also available. The Helpline is offered within the city limits and is free. It receives over 40 calls a day.
Nightingales Lifesaving Services offers training in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first-aid. Over 14,000 people from over 100 organisations have been trained in CPR and about 13,000 in first-aid. Nightingales caters to the medical needs of 37 villages in 15 centres outside Bengaluru. The free service is used by around 70 elders every day. A fully equipped mobile medical van visits three centres daily on a pre-determined route. The mobile van provides cataract screening, dental care and other basic facilities. Cases needing specialised care are referred to nearby hospitals. A Dementia Care Centre has been set up in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Australia WA, globally renowned in dementia care. This modern 70-bed facility is the first of its kind in India. It offers institutional care for the dementia-afflicted and the aged. The team comprises physicians, neurologists, psychiatrists, therapists and nursing staff.
Nightingales offers a six-month certificate course in geriatric care and has been authorised by the Government of Karnataka to issue ID cards to senior citizens that can help them avail several benefits. With Indian families and support systems changing rapidly, Nightingales fulfils the needs of the elderly that are sometimes not articulated but are always deeply felt.
Nightingales Medical Trust
337, 2nd Cross, 1st Block,
RT Nagar, Bengaluru 560 032
Phone: 080 23548444 / 555 / 666