Eldercare-as-a-service: A panacea for remote caregivers

Kabir Chadha of Epoch Elder Care, a company whose specialists provide comprehensive eldercare, including medical assistance and hobbies, at home. (Priyanka Parashar/Mint)
Kabir Chadha of Epoch Elder Care, a company whose specialists provide comprehensive eldercare, including medical assistance and hobbies, at home. (Priyanka Parashar/Mint)


  • Several elder and geriatric care services provide all-inclusive packages for kins living away from their parents in other cities or countries. But peace of mind comes at a premium

Devna Kumar was packed and ready to fly to Sydney when the unforeseen happened. Her father fell and had to be rushed to emergency care; he had suffered bleeding in the brain. Kumar, who lives in Sydney, cancelled her flight to tend to her father. But she needed to find a solution soon as she couldn’t extend her stay in India beyond a month. Her brother, too, is a non-resident Indian and could visit only for a limited period.

“I had to act quickly to find a reliable round-the-clock caretaker. I found one through an agency that a friend recommended. The service turned out to be professional and helpful," Kumar said.

That, however, was a solution to only one part of Kumar’s problem. Her father needed surgery soon and advanced medical assistance at home, apart from regular hospital visits.

She also wanted to senior-proof the house to avoid possible accidents and install CCTV cameras so she could monitor him remotely. Kumar said she got lucky that she could do everything through one agency instead of running helter-skelter coordinating with different vendors.

“When you’re outside India, it’s not possible to fly down frequently. But I wanted to stay informed about the outcomes of the doctor visits and also monitor the nurses to ensure my father was getting proper care," Kumar recalled.

“I was surprised when the same agency offered to provide a separate attendant who would assist my father in the hospitals and take notes of the interactions with doctors for us. Services like these were extremely helpful at the time."

The agency that Kumar used was Emoha Eldercare, which provides services at home.

(Infographics: Pranay Bhardwaj/Mint)
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(Infographics: Pranay Bhardwaj/Mint)

Kumar’s case highlights how NRIs struggle to care for their elderly parents remotely. This is a predicament even for those living in India but in different cities from their parents.

Take the case of Anubhav Srivastava, a finance professional living in Mumbai, who foresees himself increasingly spending much of his time in Bengaluru, where his octogenarian parents live.

“Remote caregiving is difficult. Though I have attendants looking after them, as the primary caregiver, when things go off, being far away makes it difficult to manage them," said Anubhav.

“Even mundane stuff like fixing the plumbing or an electrical issue takes up a lot of the time when you’re doing it remotely over the phone."

How eldercare services help

Professional homecare services help in a big way while remotely caring for elderly parents.

Anubhav hires professionals through Life Saviour Health Care—a dedicated assistant for his parents’ daily healthcare needs such as medication, operating medical equipment and physical support, and another person to help with household tasks.

Apart from easier access to doctors and nutritionists, companies specialising in geriatric care offer a range of other facilities.

While some provide homecare attendants and nurses for medical and non-medical assistance, others provide a single point of contact who takes on most of the tasks that the primary caregiver has to handle—communicating with doctors and therapists, documenting a parent's medical progress, procuring prescription medicines, etc.

(Infographics: Pranay Bhardwaj/Mint)
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(Infographics: Pranay Bhardwaj/Mint)

Such additional services are helpful primarily for NRIs as they also struggle with time differences. “NRI patrons are usually on the other side of the clock. Trust and peace of mind and preparedness are of the highest importance to them," said Dr. Poulomi Bhattacharya, founder and chief executive, SilverGenie, an elderly care service provider.

Saumyajit Roy, co-founder and CEO of Emoha Eldercare, agreed. “The topmost concern of NRI kids, whether they are in near geographies like Dubai or Singapore or far away in the US, is what happens in the case of an emergency at midnight," he said.

Also read | What it costs to care for aged parents in India today

US resident Niharika understands this too well. She uses the end-to-end services of PHE Healthcare in Mumbai for her mother, who has Parkinson’s disease, and says they are the “quarterback" for all her mother’s healthcare and wellness needs.

“It was important for me to have a single point of contact who could coordinate locally since it is hard for me to do that being so far away. For instance, when my mother needs a blood test or has to visit a specialist, the PHE team coordinates all the arrangements," explained Niharika, who preferred to go by a single name.

“In addition, since the doctor, nurse, caretakers, my brother and I, all receive daily updates and have a view into all the back-and-forth communications, no time is lost in catching people up. We are able to move at speed and alignment when decisions are to be made."

Beyond medical care

In terms of healthcare services only, geriatric care providers offer two models: one that lets you use their in-house team of doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, and specialists to provide primary care and at-home services, and another that typically has an in-house general physician but also ties up with local hospitals and clinics.

The second option may be more viable for the elderly who have a long-standing history with a particular doctor, as they are not bound to use the company’s medical professionals.

Also read | Aging with grace: Are senior living homes right for you?

As part of eldercare services, many platforms also conduct socialising events and online learning classes as part of community building to combat loneliness in seniors.

“Almost 99% of our customers are parents of NRI kids," said Arasi Arul, founder, 60plus India, a community-based platform for seniors that conducts online recreational events and classes such as on digital payments and booking app-based services.

“Apart from medical, emergency and household tasks support, a major concern for the next of kin of the elderly is how to keep them engaged so they don’t get lonely and depressed," said Arul. “In a majority of the cases, requests to enrol a senior in programmes like ours come from the kid and not the parent."

A premium to pay

Professional geriatric care services come at a steep price.

Anubhav spends 40,000-45,000 per month on the two attendants he has hired for his parents. Engaging independent workers to provide similar services would cost 30,000-35,000 per month.

Of course, the premium Anubhav pays gets his parents the utmost safety and stability. “If the attendant catches as much as a cold, the agency quickly replaces them with someone else. This ensures that not only are my immunocompromised parents not affected, but they are also not stranded if the attendant were to leave without giving a notice," he said.

Kumar pays 36,000 monthly for a full-time attendant, in addition to a separate annual subscription fee that includes routine doctor visits and a dedicated point of contact for her.

“Though my father has recovered fully, we chose to stay subscribed because Emoha has a complete history of my father’s case. Even if the attendant is to change, we don’t have to go through the process of briefing them from scratch. I don’t mind paying extra for this convenience," she said.

Niharika pays a monthly subscription of 6,000 to PHE. The service includes a specialist periodically recording her mother’s vitals, nutritionist counselling, and arranging doctor visits and lab tests. Payments towards the doctors’ fees, tests and medications are extra.

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