Another Rescue By WAPIZ Helping Hands For Seniors

The need of the hour is a ‘STOP GAP’ Shelter, says Anahita Desai

‘WAPIZ Helping Hands For Seniors’ project has yet again come to the rescue of senior community member – 74-year-old Aspi, and given him a new lease of life. Aspi lives with his 86-year-old widowed sister, Perin. Their niece is their primary caretaker. Due to his mental instability, Aspi has been wandering the streets of Grant Road for nearly 15 years. Some people had called the BMC to admit him in an asylum, but in vain.

A few ladies then approached Anahita Desai and Karryesh Patel for help. WAPIZ stepped in, with as much courage as commitment, resulting in the Aspi’s positive transformation – grooming 15 years of unkempt hair (shaving off nearly 5 kgs of matted hair!) and nails, and a complete cleansing. The job is yet not over as Aspi needs hospitalization or a facility to be treated for his mental condition. Kudos to WAPIZ and its volunteers for taking on a truly noble yet difficult endeavour.

Anahita Desai, who heads WAPIZ and has been instrumental in setting up the Helping Hands project for seniors, shares, “WAPIZ started the Helping Hands for Seniors Project one year ago. In this time, we have witnessed some shocking cases. What’s more alarming is that these aren’t one-off, stray cases. These are just the tip of the iceberg. The problem is far bigger than we realised. A large number of our community members lead lives of desperation, grappling with psychological problems, isolation, mental illness, neglect, loneliness, physical ailments and financial constraints. While many Trusts render support which allows many to survive with a modicum of dignity, for others, it’s a struggle to cope with old-age related problems, coupled with lack of emotional, physical or financial support.

What is sorely needed to take Helping Hands Project forward is any place where we could admit emergency cases without lengthy admission procedures or house someone on a temporary basis, till their situation was sorted. The stay could comprise a few days or a couple of months, till a long-term solution is found.

 Unfortunately, most cases do not qualify for immediate admission into our Community’s Homes for Seniors, despite the presence of many Homes for Seniors in Mumbai. These Homes render yeomen service to the community BUT each of these Homes/Institutions operate, and rightly so, within their own rules and regulations, due to which we face great difficulty in getting emergency immediate admissions.

Let me explain…

* In the BPP-run Parukh Dharamshala, where I’m on the Ladies Committee, only mobile persons are permitted admission as free residents.

* The Pallonji Shapoorji Home accepts only mobile residents with a permanent residence and will not accept anyone having medical issues.

* The Cama Convalescent Home is only for convalescent patients, and only for a short stay.

* The J J Parsi Ward is the only institution which accepts bedridden patients for free, but that’s why it’s already full and unable to accommodate new admissions.

* Gamadia Clinic accepts bedridden patients, but at a monthly fee and is reluctant to take on difficult patients.

Moreover, all the above Homes have admission procedures which take days to be processed, rendering us helpless in dealing with cases that need immediate assistance/help.

The following examples will highlight the need for a Temporary Residence /Home for those in need:

  • Where does one take an old lady who has broken her leg and has been discharged from hospital but needs an ayah for the 6 weeks that she is unable to walk? A full-time ayah is unaffordable and her husband himself is old and frail and unable to look after her. Parukh Dharamshala does not accept immobile persons. J J Parsi Ward is full most of the time, Gamadia Clinic is under renovation, besides the procedure for admission to any of these places is daunting for an old couple. A 24-hour ayah costs nothing less than 20,000/- monthly. How many can afford this? Solution: She could be housed in a temporary shelter which has ayahs to look after her for about 2 months, till she is able to walk again.
  • Take the case of Gershasp, the senior from Contractor Baug. He is a difficult person – uncooperative, abusing doctors and nurses at PGH (Parsee Gen. Hospital). When he was discharged from there, no Home admitted him. We had no choice but to take him except back to his flat in Contractor Baug. The next day, he had crawled to the gate of Contractor Baug, demanding to be taken to PGH, and sat there for 12 hours straight till finally, I fought to have him admitted to Parukh Dharamshala. Again, a Temporary Home was the need of hour, till a long-term solution is worked out for him.
  • Another case comprises a senior citizen in need of being admitted to a Senior’s Home but he does not have an Aadhaar Card, which is mandatory for admission. Where will he be housed till an Aadhaar Card is made for him? His frail brother is unable to look after him.
  • We have cleaned houses which are completely infested by bugs but we cannot have the flat professionally fumigated as we have no place to house the residents while the fumigation is getting done.
  • Another case comprises an old couple staying in Vasai. The husband is admitted as a free patient at PGH in the General Ward. The wife cannot travel all the way daily to be with her husband during his hospitalisation. Where could she stay at night close to PGH?
  • We are unable to repair and restore leaking bathrooms / toilets of financially disadvantaged seniors as where will they reside while work is going on?

These are some of the problems we face daily. All these could be resolved if only we had place to house these helpless community seniors.

A Stop Gap Shelter – The Need of the Hour: Call it a Temporary Residence / Home, a Stop Gap Home or a Home away from Home, it is sorely needed to attend to our helpless community members till we settle them back into their own homes or into community institutions established by our benefactors, as the need may be.”

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